Boucher: Simple net neutrality 'win-win' solution available

Stephen Igo • Dec 14, 2017 at 6:00 PM

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Former 9th District Congressman Rick Boucher said there is an easy and simple solution to the net neutrality issue if only Congress would set aside the partisan warfare and get to it.

During the end of his three decades tenure in the House of Representatives, Boucher worked on net neutrality and is familiar with all the ins, outs and sideways of the issue. After leaving office six years ago, Boucher took up D.C. quarters with Sidley Austin LLP, the sixth-largest U.S. based corporate law firm with 1,900 lawyers and offices in 20 cities worldwide.

The federal government has been tying itself in knots over the years over net neutrality, essentially to ensure that internet users have unfettered access to whatever content they want without interference from providers.

In 2015 the Obama administration endorsed rules to ban providers from blocking or slowing access to content, or charging consumers more for content.

"What net neutrality really means is say you, the subscriber, use a local provider -- say your local cable provider to provide internet service -- you would have a right to access all lawful content on the internet without interference from the internet provider. So the 'pipe' the provider provides to you is completely neutral," Boucher said.

"Nothing is blocked. Nothing is prioritized. Nothing is speeded up or slowed down. What you get is what you click on, and that's completely up to the subscriber."

Boucher said the "complexity comes in, how to put that into law." He said everyone relied on the FCC to do it in the past "and none of that has ever been perfect, and courts would find that the FCC would go beyond its authority" in adopting a myriad of past rules, "so in 2015 there was a complete reclassification of broadband as a common carrier, a status that give the FCC broad authority to regulate.

"And that probably scares the bejesus out of the internet providers because that could mean their service could be regulated for price or other terms and conditions that might make it difficult to remain in business."

Of Thursday's vote by the FCC Boucher said, "so it would be like the Wild West out there where a provider could block content if they so choose, or speed up or slow down content, none of which benefits the subscriber. I'm not suggesting ISP's (internet service providers) would do that, but they could."

Boucher said Congress should have taken this bull by the horns ages ago, taken it out of the china shop and put it out to pasture where it and everyone else would be content.

"Where I come down on this, it is time for Congress to step into this morass and establish clear neutrality rules. Each subscriber can reach any content they choose without interference from the provider. And declare broadband as a Title l information service so it would not be regulated so heavily as under that common carrier status.

"So in this case Democrats and Republicans get what they want. Democrats get neutrality and Republicans get lightly regulated, and that is a 'win-win' for everyone so that legislation (with bi-partisan support) would be possible."

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