FCC broadband plan sets us on the wrong path
BY Gov. Brad Henry
Saturday, July 03, 2010
7/03/10 at 6:17 AM
We stand at the proverbial fork in the road. When it comes to the Internet and broadband regulation, the path Washington chooses will have some profound effects on Americans' ability to connect, compete and innovate. Like many of my fellow governors — both Democrats and Republicans — I have serious reservations about the Federal Communications Commission's proposal to apply 1934-style government regulations to the Internet.
Bringing broadband to more Americans, especially those in rural and underserved communities, is a good and noble goal. That is why I have long supported the Obama administration's national broadband plan. To achieve the vision and goals of that plan will require unprecedented levels of private investment. It is estimated that $350 billion in new private investment will be necessary to fully implement the broadband plan.
However, the path the FCC proposes — reclassifying broadband under an arcane section of the Federal Communications Act of 1934 — will make it very difficult, if not impossible, to achieve the lofty goal of universal broadband access across the U.S. If the FCC continues on its present course, there is a real threat to rural communities and populations which are underserved by broadband access today.
The chilling effect such a move will have on private investment and job creation is real and is already being felt from Wall Street to Main Street, as Washington moves ever closer to more onerous regulation of the Internet. We cannot afford to stifle private investment, job creation and economic recovery, especially now.
Placing new burdensome regulations on the Internet, for example, will hamper our ability to provide quality online education to more students. In Oklahoma, our universities have made great strides through innovations in this field. Limiting investment in broadband deployment and development will also negatively impact our ability to deliver health care and essential services to rural and urban communities alike.
But, there is a better way.
In 2002, our state stood at the fork in the road, too. The path we chose was one of less regulation for broadband service, not more, and the results could not be more definitive and clear. A hands-off approach delivered real results.
Since the passage of our broadband parity legislation, we have seen expanded access into the most rural parts of our state. Families in Bessie (population 190) and Rattan (population 241) are beginning to compete with the larger urban areas when it comes to broadband access, choice and price. Prices, too, have dropped by 50 percent, and broadband subscribers have grown by more than 1,000 percent since 2001.
The Oklahoma experience in broadband regulation demonstrates a better way to ensure access to all the rich resources of the Internet. At the fork in the road, we chose the path to eliminate regulation of broadband service, and we have no regrets.
America is at a fork in the road. The path the FCC chooses will have a profound impact on all Americans and American businesses.
There is a better way, and it's the best and most proven way to connect all Americans with broadband. Let's keep the Internet free, open and unfettered from government regulation.
Brad Henry is governor of Oklahoma.
Gov. Brad Henry: Let's keep the Internet free, open and unfettered.