ORLANDO -- ComptelPlus Spring 2015 -- The ranking Democrat on the US Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation said here that a new communications law is needed that will both protect consumers and competition and allow for the Internet to flourish going forward. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said a so-called "Title X" should provide the certainty the industry needs to enable continued investment while giving the FCC flexibility to meet future challenges that are unknown today.
Nelson stopped short of providing details as to what this Title X might contain, but said it would have to be a bi-partisan effort and must be primarily focused on consumer rights.
Admitting that today's Washington politics are too partisan and that efforts toward bipartisan solutions run up against knee-jerk opposition from Obama haters, the Florida senator said he still thinks success is possible because he and the CS&T Committee chairman, Senator John Thune, R-S.D., are able to work together -- and even like each other. Some of that he attributed to Thune's relatively safe seat in his home state.
Despite the presence on the committee of two GOP presidential hopefuls (Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Tex., and Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.), the group has been able to pass 10 to 15 bills to date with near unanimity. "Out of all of this political caldron, I think we are going to see if we can get any common ground with regard to net neutrality," he said. "One thing we hope is going to remain constant in this committee is the bipartisanship. We are going to see that tested because net neutrality is the most significant telecom policy that is going to be facing the Congress in this two-year session."
Legal challenges to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) 's imposition of Title II status on broadband Internet services have created uncertainty for network operators and threatened to slow investment or expansion of broadband's reach and that's something that is a threat to the US economy and tech industry. One solution, Nelson said, would be new rules from Congress that clarify what the FCC can do and provide needed certainty.
Such rules would have to put consumer protection first, guarantee to also protect competition and maintain the FCC's authority, "leaving the agency with flexible forward-looking powers to respond to a dynamic and changing industry," he noted.
"We need to think beyond the rhetoric surrounding Title II and Section 706 that seems to have consumed everyone," Nelson said, referring to the specific statutes addressing how Internet service is classified. "I am hoping we have the luxury of looking at the issue anew without being constrained by the limits of the current statutes."
Nelson was addressing a Incompas audience that, for the most part, was happy with the FCC's decision to impose Title II rules on incumbent broadband ISPs, particularly since the agency agreed to mediate disputes over interconnection as part of the ruling, and he got spontaneous applause only when he said any new rules must protect competition.
— Carol Wilson, Editor-at-Large, Light Reading