FCC Commissioner: Obama’s Internet Regs Will Turn Fast American Networks Into Slow European Networks

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Republican FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai amped up his assault against Chairman Tom Wheeler’s net neutrality Internet regulation plan Thursday, saying that the plan will turn expanding American networks into stagnant European equivalents.

“In recent days, we have seen even more evidence that President Obama’s 332-page plan to regulate the Internet will deter broadband deployment, depress infrastructure investment, and diminish broadband speeds in the United States,” Pai said in a statement Thursday. “This evidence also shows that the President’s plan will lead to less competition and leave Americans with fewer broadband choices.”

Citing an independent study released by the Internet Innovation Alliance Thursday, Pai said Wheeler’s plan to regulate Internet service providers under Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act — which would ban them from establishing tiered lanes of service speeds and pricing — would slow the expansion of American networks to that of their European counterparts, which have operated under Title II-style regulation for years.

According to the Internet Innovation Alliance, Americans providers spent $137 billion on improving their fixed networks and $55 billion on their mobile networks between 2011 and 2012, while European providers spent $31 billion and $29 billion respectively. (RELATED: Republican FCC Commissioner: Obama’s Internet Plan ‘Worse Than I Imagined’)

Within the same timespan, 82 percent of U.S. homes had access to broadband speeds of 25 mbps or more (including 48 percent of rural homes), and 86 percent were within range of 4G LTE mobile service. In Europe, 54 percent of homes had access to equivalent speeds, including 12 percent rural and 27 percent mobile LTE.

In terms of competition, 76 percent of households in the U.S. have their choice of three or more fixed broadband ISPs, whereas the majority of European households have access to only one.

By 2013, U.S. connection speeds were an average 30-percent faster than their European counterparts. (RELATED: Republican FCC Commissioner Slams ‘Obama’s 332-Page Plan To Regulate The Internet’)

“[This study] shows that the bipartisan, light-touch American regulatory model embraced since the Clinton administration has been far more successful than the Title II-style approach imposed in Europe,” Pai said.

While speaking at a conference in Boulder on Monday, Wheeler defended his shift in thinking and subsequent plan to impose Title II, and said it looks far beyond the Internet as it is today.

“This is bigger than the Internet we know today,” Wheeler said during an address at a University of Colorado Boulder Law School event. “This is for the vast future, also.”

According to Wheeler, the history of telecommunications networks — such as the early phone monopolies of the 20th century — prove there’s too much economic incentive for ISPs to not take advantage of their position and act as gatekeepers of the Internet.

Wheeler said he was confident his plan would allow the FCC to preserve the competitive economic benefit to ISPs while simultaneously ensuring that the Internet remains open and fast for providers, content creators and consumers.

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