B2B | Tech

Zapanta: Net neutrality a matter of economics

Author: Al Zapanta
Publish Date: 
October 4, 2014
As U.S. small businesses struggle to recover from the Great Recession, wireless technologies have helped small businesses stay competitive and efficient. Few would argue how profound an effect mobile devices powered by wireless broadband have had on our modern economy as a driver for innovation and competitiveness.
However, a debate is raging in our nation's capital as some misguided groups, using the auspices of the Federal Communications Commission Open Internet proceedings, have suggested subjecting wireless networks to unprecedented new rules, or worse, draconian regulations meant for a long-gone, pre-wireless era.
Regulations under Title II of the 1996 Communications Act are a dangerous course of action to take on wired broadband networks. If enacted, those regulations could dramatically curtail the pace of technological breakthroughs and economic growth all Americans have benefited from in recent years.
Our country's wireless capabilities are unquestionably a success story envied by the world. Bolstered by a light-touch regulatory framework administered by bipartisan policy makers and regulators over the years, private capital investment has flourished in wireless communications as they have transformed from strictly voice calls to a ubiquitous mode of Internet connectivity.
Wireless carriers have invested over $260 billion in capital expenditures in the past 10 years. As a result, 97 percent of Americans now have access to three or more wireless carriers to choose from, according to the FCC. More important, the U.S. leads the world in the deployment of high-speed 4G LTE wireless networks. That's a critical edge for our small businesses.
Not surprisingly, U.S. small businesses are ditching their land lines and moving to mobile devices that better meet their evolving needs. On the residential front, nine in 10 households use some form of wireless service and well over a third of households are wireless-only. Moreover, wireless networks are helping bridge the digital divide among minorities and those that lack Internet connections at home. Surveys have shown that Latinos and African Americans are disproportionately using their mobile devices as their primary source of Internet connectivity.
This is where supply and demand meets.
Wireless networks have spurred a new generation of entrepreneurs and businesses that offer products and services harnessing the power and convenience of mobile broadband connectivity. The proliferation of these technologies is growing our economy through the advent of entire new industries and the reinvention of old ones. There is now a new industry dedicated to creating apps on mobile devices. Some estimate this so-called "app economy" totals over 700,000 jobs. New mobile services are also breathing life into once-stagnant industries.
Small businesses, too, have prospered. Our dynamic mobile economy is creating new marketplaces that connect people and services in ways never possible before. Small businesses now are inherently mobile: processing transactions on their smart phones, using social media to connect with patrons or using geotargeted mobile ads to attract others.
Considering all of these achievements, it is inexplicable that some are calling for overly prescriptive regulations to be applied to wireless networks despite a resounding body of evidence to the contrary. Wireless networks are not like wired broadband networks. They need spectrum - an incredibly finite resource. As such, they lend themselves to different network management practices to meet burgeoning consumer demand - mobile data use is expected to grow nearly 650 percent by 2018. Wireless networks should not be subject to onerous new rules or restrictions that interfere with how these networks have been so effectively managed over the years.
As the FCC works through its Open Internet proceedings, regulators should keep these key distinctions in mind. It has been long-standing policy to treat wireless networks differently than wired networks to maintain the careful regulatory balance that has allowed them to thrive. Any regulatory action that breaks away from this prudent practice would jeopardize hard-earned economic gains, mobile Internet adoption and America's superiority in wireless communications.

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