Daniel K. InouyeSenator
The Internet is one of the great success stories of the 20th century. It has been a key factor in the ability of the United States to steadily improve worker productivity for the past 15 years. Our economy and the quality of our lives have evolved significantly because of this ‘network of networks.’
The Internet has created an era of transparency, making it ever harder for corporations and governments to escape scrutiny for actions that do not stand up to the light of day. Again, I would suggest that because of this expanded flow of information, our nation is stronger.
The Internet has also brought together communities of like-minded individuals who share an interest in a hobby, in a unique culture, or in saving a few dollars when shopping for their families. In a country that is defined by its very diversity, I would suggest that this capacity to bring people together serves us well.
Along with the great benefits, the Internet unfortunately has provided a new avenue for those who would seek to take advantage of their fellow citizens. Identity theft, violations of intellectual property rights, and any number of good old fashioned scams have been updated to the digital age, and we continue to struggle with the best way to protect our children from inappropriate content and inappropriate contact with those who would do them harm.
Along with the problems facing individual Americans as they navigate the digital world, there are also challenges facing those who provide services and content via the Internet, and those who build and manage the network infrastructure necessary for the continued expansion and improvement of the Internet.
I believe that the government has a responsibility to create a regulatory environment that will one day enable each and every American to have affordable access to reliable broadband service. To achieve this long-term goal, I have introduced the Broadband Data Improvement Act.
This act is designed to give us a starting point. It will better define what broadband is, and it will provide us with accurate information on the current status of broadband deployment in the United States. This information is essential if we are to chart the most responsible course toward universal broadband deployment.
Another significant responsibility of our government is to ensure that the Internet continues to grow and thrive. The issue of Network Neutrality, and its offspring, nondiscrimination and network management, looms large in this debate. The central question here seems to be how to best balance the right of the American people to uncensored and unfettered access to Internet content and services against the desire of Internet service providers to manage their networks in an efficient and profitable manner.
For several years now, policy discussions on this subject have been waged on a rhetorical battlefield. We are told that nothing less than the Future of the Internet is at stake. Yet even in this winner-take-all environment, we see the inklings of progress: the dialogue between cable and peer-to-peer services, the novel open access requirements on the C-block spectrum, and the swift response of a wireless provider to a text messaging snafu that thwarted political speech.
It may be early for optimism, but progress deserves praise. In the meantime, I can assure you that this Committee will continue to vigorously exercise its oversight authority over this important issue.
Ted StevensSenatorI would like to welcome Chairman Martin; I think it is very important; particularly we look forward to hearing some comments concerning your meetings in Harvard and Stanford. Senator Kerry said that this is a problem seeking a solution, from my point of view it is a preferred solution seeking some justification. I certainly hope that the FCC as well as the Congress will be careful about taking this first step and going back to intensive regulation of the internet. That’s what net neutrality means to me. Eventually there would be an extension of regulation to the point where it would be interference with the dynamics of this internet and its future. I do believe that there are many comments out there for instance, I would like to file for the record the article entitled network neutrality: False Promise of Zero Price Regulation by C. Scott Hempfield and a group of people at Columbia University. It does seem to me that this discussion that is going on is good for the system. But to take action on it, either by the Congress or the FCC at this time I think is highly unwarranted. The action that Senator Kerry mentioned that was called to attention, the public indignation, the outcry from the industry showed that the system will right itself if someone really tries to interfere with the free access and really fair treatment of everyone using the internet systems. So I do not believe that this is a time to try and put into law or a regulation a concept of net neutrality is not validated yet. If something comes along that really deserves attention, it will be broad enough and a great enough incentive for us to stop this political division over the concept of net neutrality. It is a political division now, and it is getting more so and it is unfortunate because I do not think that the communication law ought to come about because of political division in an election year.
Witness Panel 1
The Honorable Kevin J. MartinChairmanFederal Communications Commission
Witness Panel 2
Ms. Michele CombsVice President of CommunicationsChristian Coalition of America
Mr. Patric VerronePresidentWriters Guild of America, West
Dr. Robert HahnExecutive Director, Center for Regulatory and Market StudiesAmerican Enterprise Institute
Ms. Justine BatemanActress / Writer / Producer
Mr. Kyle McSlarrowPresident and CEONational Cable & Telecommunications Association
Professor Lawrence LessigStanford Law School