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Julius H. Hollis Headshot

Smart Internet Policy That's Good for Main Street

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Two democrats from very different parts of the country recently came together to form a substantive compromise bill on Internet policy. While the legislation, introduced by Rep. Henry Waxman and Rep. Rick Boucher, ultimately stalled this week, the effort nonetheless demonstrated real progress in the highly contentious debate over Net Neutrality. Waxman, the powerful chair of the House Energy & Commerce committee, resides in Los Angeles, a progressive district in Southern California, while Boucher hails from Southern Virginia, a traditionally conservative section of the country. Although these two members of Congress live miles apart, they both understand the need for their constituencies and all Americans to have access to an open Internet and have access to affordable broadband technology.

The Waxman and Boucher bill is significant in two ways. First it signifies that some very important voices in Washington are willing to come to the table for an honest discussion and take a common sense approach to Internet policy. It has become exceedingly clear that Congressional action can and must occur otherwise the average American will become even more financially vulnerable. It is also evidence that this issue is simply too important for our elected officials to sit on the sidelines while millions of disenfranchised Americans look for a glimmer of hope in our weakened economy.

Secondly, the setback of the Waxman/Boucher bill also leaves us with the discouraging reality that the door still remains open for advocates pushing an agenda of increased regulatory authority for the Federal Communications Commission. As most already know this path could do irreparable harm to America's economy by sending the wrong signals to already skittish private sector Those fringe groups that advocate for enhanced FCC regulation don't seem to fully understand the ramifications of this approach. This would derail major investments in cutting edge technology, effectively crippling America's job growth. These groups are simply out of touch with main street and do not speak for those who are struggling to make ends meet.

As I have said time and again, this issue is critically important in minority communities where unemployment rates continue to surpass the national average and communities of color lack Internet access. Increased regulations by the FCC will not create jobs nor will it lower the price of high-speed Internet for low income families. The bottom line is simple, Americans need jobs and investments in broadband technology can create them. The ability for families to support themselves and provide their children with new educational opportunities, these are the building blocks for pulling our communities out of poverty. This goal of investing deeply in broadband technology was originally outlined in the National Broadband Plan and the objective remains central to America's economic vitality today.

As Waxman and Boucher's latest push for legislation proves, there is still room for compromise and sound policies in Washington. We sometimes take for granted the digital revolution of the last two decades; the distance we've traveled and the progress America has made. More people today than ever before have access to Internet and our country has created technologies that only a short time ago seemed inconceivable. In the midst of this rapid development it's sometimes easy to forget how we arrived here through smart policies that encouraged the growth of our technology sector. Let's not succumb to overreaching regulations that will hold back our innovative spirit. Now at this critical time, we need our leaders more than ever. We need Congress to work harder and ultimately we need them to take bold action on behalf of the American people. Our jobs, communities and families are depending it.

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