Collection of Quotes Opposing Obama Missive on Title II

After President Obama’s surprise intrusion into the independent Federal Communications Commission’s process, a number of elected officials, advocates and associations have been unmistakably clear about the negative consequences of utility regulation of broadband. 

The following is a collection of their statements urging the FCC to stand firm against the President’s habitual line stepping:

Americans for Tax Reform’s President, Grover Norquist: "It tells us everything that Obama launched this naked power grab to control the Internet mere days after the election. If he believed that this would be popular or good policy he could have done this six years ago, or five years, or fours years ago. He could have introduced legislation to actually rewrite the law that he’s now trying to change by his own personal fiat. Taxpayers and consumers will fight hard to stop this damaging power grab.” 

Progressive Policy Institute President, Will Marshall: “'I hear you,' President Obama assured voters in his post-midterm press conference last week. But his endorsement today of subjecting the Internet to heavy-handed regulation suggests otherwise.   

"In fact, the president’s statement is exactly the wrong reaction to the election. It endorses a backward-looking policy that would apply the breaks to the most dynamic sector of America’s economy.  The shellacking the president and his party suffered last week was largely about the economy. In exit polls, 70 percent of voters said they were mostly concerned about the economy, and an overwhelming majority of them described economic conditions as 'not so good' or poor.

"If the election yields any lesson, it is that Democrats need to offer the public a more convincing plan for accelerating economic growth and restoring shared prosperity. Such a plan should begin by building on America’s comparative advantages in digital innovation and entrepreneurship.

"Imposing public utility-style regulation on the Internet points in the opposite direction. It would very likely reduce private investment in broadband, which as PPI has documented in a series of policy reports, is a prime catalyst for job and business creation in the United States.

"It is also inconsistent with the Democratic Party’s legacy. After all, the Internet took off in the 1990s, thanks in significant degree to the 'light touch' approach to regulation adopted by the Clinton-Gore Administration. 

"We hope President Obama will reflect on that legacy of pro-growth progressivism and reconsider his endorsement of Title II regulation of the Internet."

Doug Brake, telecom policy analyst of the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation:  ITIF is disappointed by President Obama's statement, not because of the general net neutrality policy he lays out, but because we strongly disagree that Title II is the correct way to achieve that policy. Just about everyone is in agreement with President Obama in wanting to assure an Internet free from blocking, "throttling," or any type prioritization that undermines a level playing field. Fortunately, in the Verizon decision the court laid out a clear path under section 706 of the Communications Act to enact just such rules. Such a path is surely the best route to enforceable rules that do not limit investment in and on the network, while allowing flexibility in allowing new technologies to flourish.

Reclassification under Title II is not easy or straightforward. The forbearance process is complex and lengthy, subject to arguments and delay from all interested parties. Furthermore, classification of ISPs as common carriers based solely on a policy goal would face steep legal challenges.

Title II represents a strong shift towards a European-style precautionary regulation, over-regulating up-front, without legitimate justification (carriers also disavow the practices Obama wants banned). This path would make it much harder to do pro-consumer network management, such as prioritizing voice-over-Internet-protocol (VOIP) calls for consumers, and is more likely to balkanize networks into distinct specialized services.

As the President acknowledges, the FCC is an independent agency, and how to proceed is ultimately up to Chairman Wheeler and the four other Commissioners. It pays to remember why we have this particular institutional design in the first place: to have an independent group of experts that are well versed in the subtleties and relatively immune from political pressure. Ungrounded populist outcry has driven us far from Wheeler's initial thoughtful proposal – it's time to come back to reality. 

Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Communications and Technology Subcommittee Chairman Greg Walden (R-OR), and Vice Chairman Bob Latta (R-OH):  “We are extremely troubled and disappointed by the president’s urging the FCC to regulate the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act. Today’s announcement is just the latest in a long line of decisions that reveal this administration simply doesn’t know how to grow the economy… Sadly, it appears the president is abandoning the successful hands-off policy of his Republican and Democratic predecessors in favor of centrally controlled Internet policy. This is a mistake.”

House Speaker John Boehner:“It’s disappointing, but not surprising, that the Obama administration continues to disregard the people’s will and push for more mandates on our economy.   An open, vibrant Internet is essential to a growing economy, and net neutrality is a textbook example of the kind of Washington regulations that destroy innovation and entrepreneurship.  Federal bureaucrats should not be in the business of regulating the Internet – not now, not ever.  In the new Congress, Republicans will continue our efforts to stop this misguided scheme to regulate the Internet, and we’ll work to encourage private-sector job creation, starting with many of the House-passed jobs bills that the outgoing Senate majority ignored.” 

Senator Ted Cruz:"Net Neutrality" is Obamacare for the Internet; the Internet should not operate at the speed of government.”

House Majority Whip Steven Scalise: “Today’s attempt by the president to have the FCC reclassify broadband Internet as a public utility is yet another example of the Obama Administration’s radical effort to have the government take over more aspects of our economy where there is no justification.  Title II reclassification … sends the wrong message that regulation trumps innovation in the Internet ecosystem…The FCC should not allow itself to be bullied into embracing this dangerous proposal that will harm our economy.”

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce:  “Strongly opposes President Obama’s call for the FCC to impose antiquated Title II regulations on broadband and reverse two decades of bi-partisan support for a lightly-regulated Internet … As an independent agency, the FCC answers to Congress—not the administration.”

National Cable and Telecommunications Association President & CEO, Michael Powell:  “The cable industry strongly supports an open Internet, is building an open internet, and strongly believes that over-regulating the fastest growing technology in our history will not advance the cause of Internet freedom.  There is no dispute about the propriety of transparency rules and bans on discrimination and blocking.  But this tectonic shift in national policy, should it be adopted, would create devastating results. 

Broadband for America (BfA) Honorary Co-Chairs former Senator John Sununu and former Representative Harold Ford Jr:  "President Barack Obama's endorsement of 1930's era Title II classification would lead to unprecedented government interference in the Internet and would hurt consumers and innovation…The President's approach would threaten millions of jobs and a diverse array of stakeholders including, labor, civil-rights organization, and tech companies, who have long advocated for a far more restrained approach.

"Further, the President's directive discredits US efforts to prevent countries like Russia and China from destroying the current international multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance and replacing it with government regulatory control.  It is ironic that the President made his announcement while in China, which has long sought greater government control over the Internet and surely will be encouraged by the President's statement.

Phil Kerpen, American Commitment:Organized over 800,000 public comments against net neutrality, said implementation of such regulations "would in effect turn the Internet into a public utility identical to that of the telephone company from when it was a government-sanctioned monopoly in the 1930s until a federal judge finally broke it up in the 1980s. The same regulatory rubric with which 'Ma Bell' governed telephones would be utilized by 'Ma Net' under the Obama proposal."

Competitive Enterprise Institute, Clyde Wayne Crews Jr.:Like all “net neutrality” proponents, [President Barack Obama] continues to falsely distinguish between the hyper-shuffling, synergistic businesses of “content” and “infrastructure,” and uses rhetoric portraying them as enemies in order to excuse government control over both.

American Enterprise Institute’s Jeffrey Eisenach:“The Federal Communications Commission was created to be an independent regulatory agency, above and beyond the reach of crass politics. The White House’s decision to intervene in an ongoing rulemaking makes a mockery of any sense of independence or impartiality. A legitimate case can be made that a decision as large, and as lacking in statutory basis, as the FCC’s intervention in the net neutrality matter is correctly a matter for politicians, not bureaucrats.   To the extent that is the case, however, there is only one legitimate route, and it starts in the Congress, not the White House. If the FCC bows to pressure from the White House on this issue, the agency’s reputation will suffer a terrible stain.”

AEI’s Bret Swanson:  The Internet in the US has thrived almost beyond imagination under a multi-decade, bipartisan stance of policy restraint. Imposing Title II telephone regulations on the wildly successful US Internet would be a historic economic blunder.

AEI’s Roslyn Layton:  [The President’s] statement is not only a terrible message for the US, but for the rest of world. Indeed, foreign authoritarian governments have been looking for justification to monitor networks and users under the guise of net neutrality and the “Open Internet.” Obama’s announcement could not be a better present to the leaders of China, Iran, and Saudi Arabia. Read my articles about this here and here.

AEI’s Daniel Lyons:  Title II reclassification would impose upon a vibrant Internet a legal regime designed in the 1930s to control the old AT&T monopoly. Indeed, the proposed ban on paid prioritization is more stringent than the obligations we once shackled on Ma Bell. The White House’s proposal to homogenize broadband Internet access is inconsistent with an increasingly diverse marketplace and would deprive Americans of countless innovative business models currently proliferating worldwide…Broadband policies turn upon a host of highly technical issues, in both fixed and wireless markets, that cannot be reduced to political sound bytes.

Technology Policy Institute’s Thomas Lenard:“The FCC, as an independent agency, should base its decision on the best available data and analysis, none of which support Title II reclassification, rather than bending to political pressures. The rapid rate of change and the complexity of market arrangements in the internet ecosystem call not for new regulation, but a humble light-handed approach.”

TechFreedom’s President, Berin Szoka:  Obama’s statement is simply a cynical political ploy, a way of playing to activists on the radical Left who have built mailing lists and a political movement on the most absolutist conception of net neutrality … No-blocking and transparency rules are uncontroversial: back in 2006, 215 House Republicans voted for themas part of badly-overdue update to the Communications Act.”

NetCompetition’s Scott Cleland:  

“For twenty years, the solid foundation of a free and open global Internet has been built upon bipartisan, Clinton Administration Internet, trade and foreign policy, that ensured that our global trading partners did not legally classify Internet traffic as a price and tariff regulated “telecommunications” utility service like under Title II. The longstanding, lightly regulated “information services” classification has allowed Internet traffic to flow freely as un-bordered, un-tariffed Internet traffic, rather than UN-regulated and tariffed “telecommunications” trade.”

Institute for Liberty president Andrew Langer:

“What the President is after isn’t ‘net neutrality’ by any rational definition of the term.  What he wants to do is dismantle the very things that have made the Internet a truly revolutionary and transformative invention, while putting the government in charge of determining how fast or slow consumer Internet speeds are.  Consider how the net—how consumers interact with it and utilize it—has dramatically changed in the last five years, without the need for massive interference by the federal government.  Then imagine if that network were run like Amtrak, or our nation’s highways—no true high speed rail, and a network of roads under constant construction, with constant slow-downs.”

Less Government’s Seton Motley:“The Internet is a free speech-free market Xanadu. It is anything but broken.  Why is the perpetually-broken government trying to ‘fix’ it?”

Free State Foundation’s Randolph May:The FCC could address potentially harmful Internet practices by invoking its authority to regulate Internet providers in a carefully targeted, light-touch manner. But, unfortunately, that potential approach now appears to have been abandoned by the FCC's Democrat majority. Unless the FCC backs off, it will be up to Congress to repair the damage by devising a sensible policy that benefits all consumers."

Citizens Against Government Waste’s Deborah Collier: Many Americans, including our honored “veterans are using the Internet to find jobs, obtain health care benefits, and apply for educational benefits. In a couple of weeks, consumers across the country will be engaging in “Cyber Monday” to purchase holiday gifts online…The President intends to hamstring the companies that provide these services with restrictive regulations dating back to the 1930s.”

The Heritage Foundation’s James Gattuso: “Regulating the 21st century Internet under common carrier rules designed for the railroads in the 19th century simply makes no sense. With a stroke of a pen, the networks connecting millions of Americans to the world-wide web would be subject to thousands of regulations, requiring them to obtain FCC permission for the most basic of decisions.”

The Taxpayers Protection Alliance’s David Williams:  Any reclassification of the Internet could open the floodgates for new taxes. If the FCC decided to regulate broadband as a Title II telecommunications service, customers would see the Universal Service Fund (USF) contribution fee assessed on broadband bills.  Telecommunications taxes are already too high and consumers can’t afford to be burdened with more taxes.  A reclassification of the Internet under Title II as a utility may have a negative impact on upcoming spectrum incentive auctions … reclassification would devalue the spectrum that is being auctioned off which in the end would harm taxpayers, and make it more difficult to sell.

Jon Healey, LA Times: “Obama seems to have underestimated how hard it will be to fit Title II to the task of protecting Net Neutrality. And like many Net neutrality advocates, he also seems to ignore that restricting what ISPs can do with edge providers may also limit innovation and competition.”

The people are speaking out in droves against this obviously harmful and misguided proposition. It is time for the voices of reason to be listened to.

WSJ Opinion:  Obama vs. the Internet

Mr. Obama is trying to exert in his final two years in office the same political control over the Internet that he has already imposed on health care and banking. If he succeeds he’ll set a terrible precedent for despots around the world who also want to assert political control over cyberspace. The Obama Administration is already ceding greater control over the Internet registry ICANN to foreign outfits that could easily become fronts for repressive regimes.  If the FCC caves under White House pressure, Congress has every right to defund this regulatory overreach before it becomes a clear and present danger to the U.S. economy and global freedom.

WSJ Opinion:  The Department of the Internet. Andy Kessler:  “the Internet cannot function as a public utility. First, public utilities don’t serve the public; they serve themselves, usually by maneuvering through Byzantine regulations that they helped craft. Utilities are about tariffs, rate bases, price caps and other chokeholds that kill real price discovery and almost guarantee the misallocation of resources.”  Mr. Kessler, a former hedge-fund manager, is the author, most recently, of “Eat People” (Portfolio, 2011).