While taking part in a hearing on Capitol Hill Tuesday discussing Internet policy, Washington Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell characterized the FCC’s aggressive net neutrality plan as “taking a step” toward European Internet regulation — one of the chief criticisms of those against the plan.
On Tuesday morning the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee held a hearing to discuss the Obama administration plan to transition control of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — which manages global Internet domain names and assigns Internet protocol addresses — to the global community.
During the testimony of National Telecommunications and Information Administration head Larry Strickling — who was included on emails between the White House and the FCC while the agency was drafting its net neutrality plan — Cantwell asked Strickling for his thoughts on net neutrality.
“What else can we do to promote this idea on a global basis?” Cantwell asked. “Obviously the Europeans are regulated in a different way then we are already, so tomorrow is about us taking a step probably a little closer to their approach,” the senator said referring to the FCC’s vote to implement the plan Thursday. (RELATED: Republican FCC Commissioners Ask Wheeler To Delay Net Neutrality Vote, Release Proposal)
Establishing a European Internet regulatory model is one of the chief concerns for plan opponents including FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai, who said Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to regulate Internet service providers as public utilities — establishing government standards for content, speed and price — will slow the speed and growth of American networks to that of European networks. (RELATED: FCC Commissioner: Obama’s Internet Regs Will Turn Fast American Networks Into Slow European Networks)
While citing a study by the Internet Innovation Alliance earlier this month, Pai noted that 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 only $31 billion and $29 billion respectively. (RELATED: FCC Commissioner On ‘Revised’ Net Neutrality Plan: ‘I’m Voting No’)
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.
“[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, referencing the regulatory proposal used to break up telephone monopolies in the 1930s.
Earlier this week South Dakota Republican Sen. John Thune, who chairs the committee, said he and congressional Republicans are still committed to proposing a legislative solution to net neutrality, which would ban ISPs from content blocking, throttling Internet speeds or establishing fast lanes, while avoiding heavy-handed utility-style regulation. (RELATED: Congressional Republicans Are NOT Giving Up The Net Neutrality Fight)