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Maria C.
Democrat WA

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  • Net Neutrality

    by Senator Maria Cantwell

    Posted on 2015-02-04

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    CANTWELL. Mr. President, I rise today to discuss the importance of the issue of Net neutrality and the importance of it to our innovation economy.



    The Internet is a $638 billion economic force, and according to the McKinsey Global Institute, it supports millions of jobs across our Nation. Setting the right policy for the Internet is critical for the continuation of American job creation in an innovation economy.

    Over the next 24 hours, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is expected to announce strong Net neutrality standards to support the growth of this innovation economy.

    According to news reports, the FCC will establish clear rules of the road to ensure that no content is blocked and that the Internet cannot be divided into fast and slow lanes. This announcement would set a clear framework for the innovation economy and the millions of jobs that depend on it across our Nation. It would make a game-changing milestone for American innovators and consumers because a comprehensive plan would protect consumers while still allowing for flexibility of business growth and investment and making sure that American consumers and innovators are protected.

    The Commission is expected to vote on this rule later this month, and I hope that all of our colleagues will be paying attention to this decision because this decision is not just whether I can download or use Netflix, it is really about equal access to the marketplace. It is about how the future [[Page S748]] success of these innovators are determined.

    Over the last few years, we have been debating the future of the Web, and that is because broadband companies have tried to leverage what is to be established as a two-tier Internet--those with fast lanes because of their ability to pay more and slow lanes for those who can't pay more.

    I believe the President did the right thing. He called on the FCC to make the right decision when it comes to the Internet and protecting it from cable companies who want to overcharge or slow down connections. The FCC seems to be willing to make the right call, by protecting consumers and the Internet, under a new order which, just like a utility, would give consumers the ability to be protected from bad service or exorbitant fees. At this point in time, that is what we need to do to protect consumers.

    According to the news reports, Chairman Wheeler will announce a plan to use the FCC authority in the most comprehensive way to protect Net neutrality, prohibit pay-to-play fast lanes, prohibit blocking and throttling, require greater transparency for consumers, and apply the rules to wireless broadbands so that smart phones are treated just like the browser on your desk.

    This plan would cover what is known as the middle mile or Internet traffic or the companies that content providers, such as Netflix, pay to bring traffic to cable companies, such as Comcast, to connect to you, the end user. These important policies will provide certainty to a startup in business, and they will make sure that those products get equal access.

    Last month I had a roundtable in Seattle with several startups and experts on Net neutrality, and many of those companies relied on the Internet to transform their ideas into successful businesses. They explained how the debate affects more than just tech companies. They said software is revolutionizing every industry, from retail to health care, everything from the way you pay for your coffee at Starbucks to how you access your own personal health information.

    If we allowed a two-tier system to develop, the big guys would have the ability to pay more while the smaller customers would have disruptions. What we have done, hopefully with an announcement today, is to make sure we are putting a stake in the ground to protect consumers.

    The CEO of the Washington Technology Industry Association put it best when he said: We have a multi-trillion dollar evidence base study that says the current rules of the game--which mean open, neutral access to the Internet--work.

    I couldn't agree more.

    Our innovation economy depends on equal access for all ideas. The proof is in the numbers. Over 6 million U.S. jobs are tied to the Internet. That adds up to a payroll of $558 billion. In the Seattle metropolitan area alone, from 2009 to 2014, there were 433 different venture capital deals related to Internet companies, totaling nearly $2.6 billion.

    All of this growth in the Internet economy relies on an open Internet. That means no blocking, no throttling of these priorities. That is why I support strong net neutrality rules. They need to be responsible and efficient.

    I thank Chairman Wheeler for his leadership in setting up strong rules. I hope this information on the Web continues to be one of our great economic engines and continues job development here in the United States.

    A strong net neutrality rule is the best tool in the toolbox for preserving the openness of the Internet today. It will go a long way to help us continue our economic prosperity.

    I thank the Presiding Officer, and I yield the floor.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER (Mr. Flake). The Senator from Georgia.

    ____________________

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