A picture of Senator Edward J. Markey
Edward M.
Democrat MA

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  • Nomination of Roy K.J. Williams to Be Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Economic Development

    by Senator Edward J. Markey

    Posted on 2014-05-14

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    MARKEY. Mr. President, I rise to speak on the issue of net neutrality. Right now there are people who are watching the floor of the Senate streaming live on C-SPAN.org.



    They might be engaged political junkies or maybe they need something to help them take a nap. Let's face it; the action in this most deliberative body can sometimes feel a little slow.

    Now imagine just a few companies deciding that C-SPAN.org will be put into a slow lane; that the public interest content streamed out to the world will be sent out at an even more deliberative pace, while kitten videos will get priority.

    When people talk about net neutrality, that is what we are talking about. Instead of open and free Internet where the billions of clicks and links made by customers and entrepreneurs in their living rooms and garages determine who wins and loses, it will be just a few companies in a few corporate boardrooms deciding who gets into the express lane and who falls behind in a traffic jam.

    We need a truly open Internet because an open Internet has become the world's greatest platform for innovation, job creation, and economic growth. An open Internet enables freedom of expression and the sharing of ideas across town or around the world. An open Internet is driving economic growth in Massachusetts and throughout the United States.

    Openness is the Internet's heart, nondiscrimination is its soul, and any infringements on either of these features undermine the intent of net neutrality.

    The vitality of this free platform is at stake today because right now our Internet regulators at the FCC are determining how they will use its authority to keep the Internet open for business.

    When the FCC first unveiled its new Open Internet proposal a few weeks ago, the Commission contemplated whether to allow paid prioritization. Under these proposed Internet rules of the road, fast lanes could open to those who can pay, leaving others stuck in traffic. The result: Consumers could be stuck in an online provider pileup when a broadband provider decides to slow down a streaming of Netflix's House of Cards or bring a high-speed Yahoo search to a crawl or block a free online call to a friend abroad. But the worry goes far beyond simply slowing down the videos we watch on YouTube.

    Without a truly open Internet, startups and small businesses would suffer, slowing our economy and job growth throughout Massachusetts and around the country. No one should have to ask permission to innovate. But with fast and slow lanes, that is precisely what an entrepreneur will need to do.

    Right now the essence of the Internet is to innovate and test new ideas first. If an idea then takes off, the creator can attract capital and expand. The Internet today is a level playing field where the competition for the best in technology and ideas thrives.

    Creating Internet fast and slow lanes would flip this process on its head. Instead, an entrepreneur would first need to raise capital in order to start innovating, because she would need to pay for fast-lane access to have a chance for her product to be seen and to succeed. Only those with access to deep pockets would develop anything new. Imagine the stifling of creativity if startups need massive amounts of money even to innovate. So consider an app developer or creator of a new product in Boston or throughout the country. How will she reach potential customers and viewers if her Web site is stuck on a gravel path while those with access to capital whiz by on the interstate as they flash their Internet E-ZPass? She won't reach her customers; only those with money will.

    If you don't believe me, consider the more than 100 tech companies-- including Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and Twitter--that characterize broadband providers imposing tolls on Internet companies as a ``grave threat to the Internet.'' Consider the 50 venture capitalists who wrote to Chairman Wheeler last week and said that with paid prioritization, ``an individual in a dorm room or design studio will not be able to experiment out loud on the Internet. The result will be greater conformity, fewer surprises, and less innovation.'' Less disruption--less creation of the next big idea. That would be the end of the Internet as we know it today.

    Unfortunately, I have seen this fight before. In 2006, when the open Internet was under attack, I introduced the first net neutrality bill in the House of Representatives. Today our battle to preserve an open and free Internet wages on. That is why last week I joined with 10 of my Senate colleagues to urge Chairman Wheeler to rethink paid prioritization and to insist that he explore all options, including reclassifying broadband as a telecommunications service.

    We need to put on the books the strongest open Internet rules as possible, and if title II reclassification is the most effective way to accomplish this goal, that is what the FCC should do because then it would be treated as a common carrier service. That is how we treat traditional phone service. That, in fact, is what the Internet has become in the 21st century. You cannot live without it. We have to treat it as such. To be connected in the 21st century, you need Internet access. That is why, if needed--and it just might be--title II will have to be the way to go.

    As one of the primary authors of the 1996 Telecommunications Act--a bill that unleashed competition and created hundreds of millions of dollars in private investment--I know the FCC has both the power and the responsibility to oversee the operation of broadband networks and intervene in its efforts to preserve competition and safeguard consumers. It is time for the FCC to use that power to protect the tremendous potential of the Internet.

    The Internet is a vital tool that helps businesses compete and expand, pumping life into our economy. Again, after [[Page S2997]] the 1996 act, $1 trillion of private sector investment went into developing new companies online, into expanding the Internet. Why? The government acted to make sure there was a level playing field in the 1996 act and then got out of the way and watched the competition flourish in this chaotic new world of broadband. There was no YouTube. There was no Google or Amazon. There was no Twitter. There was no Facebook. It didn't exist. It could have existed before then but not if we didn't have a flourishing Internet that was wide open for competition and investment from the private sector.

    That is why this decision by the Federal Communications Commission is so important. It is understanding the very nature of this new communications job-creating revolution that we have here. We must fight to protect it.

    I thank you, Mr. President, for allowing me this time, and I yield back.

    The PRESIDING OFFICER. The Senator from Wyoming.

    (The remarks of Mr. Barrasso pertaining to the introduction of S. 2339 are printed in today's Record under ``Statements on Introduced Bills and Joint Resolutions.'') Mr. BARRASSO. Thank you, Mr. President. I yield the floor.

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