Conservatives Embrace Internet Freedom, Provide Vision for Internet Transformation

The Daily Caller posted language from the draft 2012 Republican Party Platform this morning indicating the platform includes Internet freedom. The platform indicates conservatives have embraced Internet freedom based on the removal of barriers to infrastructure investment and resistance to international governance. Within the next ten years, Internet connectivity will form the foundation of economic growth and social discourse at home and abroad. For the United States to lead the world in the 21st Century, it must lead the transformation from outdated, analog communications infrastructures to fully digital networks capable of supporting the ultra fast Internet services of the future. Conservatives recognize the importance of the Internet to American leadership and that the nation’s success depends on the adoption of a visionary approach to communications policy.

The Internet is an American success story that is transforming the world. Over the last decade, the Internet has become a global driver of innovation, economic growth, and individual liberty free from government intervention. The market-based approach to Internet governance empowered the imagination of our high-tech entrepreneurs, and the deregulatory policies of the 1990s and 2000s promoted private investment in broadband infrastructure. Beginning with the Democratic Clinton Administration in 1999, the FCC found that broadband was being deployed to all Americans in a timely fashion throughout the 2000s. As the decade came to a close, the United States was poised to lead the transition from legacy communications technologies and infrastructure to modern networks capable of supporting the future Internet.

Over the last several years, the United States has been losing the international competition for Internet leadership. The FCC just released a report concluding that, for the third consecutive year, broadband is not being deployed in a reasonable and timely fashion to all Americans. The FCC first found that we had stopped making progress toward our broadband goals in 2010, the same year the FCC imposed sweeping government regulations discouraging private investment in Internet infrastructure (based on Obama’s 2008 platform) and issued its National Broadband Plan. Based on the FCC’s findings, it’s appears the FCC’s current policies aren’t working.

The FCC’s policies aren’t working because they are frozen in the past. While the rest of the world is accelerating the deployment of ultra-high-speed fiber infrastructure for the wired Internet and holding spectrum auctions to enable the mobile Internet, the FCC is adopting policies to preserve outdated, copper infrastructure and has no plans to auction mobile spectrum. The government spent $7.2 billion on a 1930s-era plan to build broadband networks in rural and underserved areas, but attached uneconomic regulatory requirements to funding that discouraged industry participation in the program. In early 2011, President Obama vowed that he would provide high-speed wireless services to at least 98 percent of all Americans, but federal agencies have squashed commercial transactions that promised broadband investment in rural areas.

The conservative platform offers a new communications policy approach designed to restore American technology leadership. It recognizes the threat that government intervention poses to Internet freedom, and it commits to resisting any effort to shift control of the Internet to government organizations and to ensuring that personal data on the Internet is protected from government overreach. It also recognizes that current communications regulations are woefully out of date. It proposes to modernize our regulatory approach by removing barriers designed to protect outdated technologies and business plans from innovation and competition and supporting incentives for private investment in communications infrastructure. It also calls for market-based auctions of federal spectrum for the mobile Internet and public-private partnerships for connecting rural areas.

Regulations designed to preserve the status quo are putting our ability to innovate at risk. Conservatives are offering a 21st Century approach to communications and Internet policy that would eliminate outdated regulation and provide incentives for transitioning to modern networks. Deregulatory policies are the prescription the United States needs to cure our Internet ills and enjoy a full economic recovery.