On Day of Action, Cantwell Defends Open Internet Protections
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, on the Net Neutrality Day of Action, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) took to the Senate floor to defend net neutrality – the rules that maintain an open and free internet. Cantwell stressed the importance of an open and free internet to Washington businesses, the internet economy, and everyday consumers.
“We're here today to draw attention to one of those important economic issues before us -- the need to preserve an open internet with strong net neutrality laws. We do not want to see American consumers run over by large cable companies who are demanding and demanding higher rates,” said Cantwell in her floor remarks. “Net neutrality, meaning you have an open internet that's not artificially slowed down unless you pay a ransom, is important for small businesses and start-ups and entrepreneurs who rely so much now on an integrated business model where internet access, marketing, advertising, products, and services to reach customers is critical. We need an open internet.”
In May, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Ajit Pai began the process of abandoning net neutrality, neglecting his agency’s responsibility to act in the public interest. Rolling back the rules threatens to erase the opportunities created by equal access and chokes the internet’s powerful economic engine, one that has been roaring since the rules were passed in 2015.
Earlier this month, Senator Cantwell hosted pro-net neutrality FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn for a town hall focused on net neutrality. The two heard directly from constituents about the benefits of a free and open internet and how rolling back net neutrality protections would hurt their jobs and businesses. Full video of the town hall can be found HERE.
In the Senate, Cantwell led the charge to establish net neutrality rules and ensure equal access to the internet. She was an early advocate for the FCC to take up net neutrality and used her position as a senior member of the Senate Commerce Committee to keep continuous pressure on the Commission during the drafting and implementation of the Open Internet Order – the rules that enshrine net neutrality – in 2015.
A full transcript of Senator Cantwell’s remarks is below.
Sen. Cantwell: Mr. President, I come to the floor with my colleagues. The senator from Hawaii has been coordinating a loud and resounding voice to stop the FCC. I want to thank him for his organization. We'll be joined by our colleague, Senator Wyden from Oregon, and perhaps the other senator from Oregon and several others to talk about this issue. We're here today to draw attention to one of those important economic issues before us – the need to preserve an open internet with strong net neutrality laws. We're facing a pivotal moment. A strong and open internet is without question one of the great innovations of our time and one of the great job creators of our time. Yet, the Trump Administration stands poised to undo the bedrock principle of [net] neutrality in the face of evidence that we know means it would undermine our economy and undermine future job growth.
The FCC has announced its intention to go against the demands of five million American consumers and reverse what is an existing recall so that big cable companies and telecom providers could erect toll lanes. That is, if you want fast internet speed, you have to pay more. This would threaten a fundamental nature of our internet and an innovation economy.
Last week, FCC Commissioner Clyburn and I had a town meeting on net neutrality in Seattle. More than 300 people attended and not one was in favor of paying higher prices to their cable company for worse or inhibited internet services. Many people shared their personal stories about how the internet with toll lanes would affect them negatively, and we heard from many small businesses and start-ups that they were afraid of losing business because they might have to charge higher prices to their customers if these important protections were reversed. I heard from people that have health problems and their concerns about health emergencies while at home and the fact that the absence of net neutrality rules would mean that their small hometown doctor could not get critical information to the medical practitioners who are dealing with a patient in an emergency so that they could get important life-saving treatments.
So whether you're a doctor examining a patient via telemedicine in an emergency room in Seattle or a student in a rural community trying to access the internet to get information for a test or research, a fast connection is not just something that you have a little concern about. Being artificially slowed down in favor of big companies that buy faster lanes would turn our economy in the wrong direction. Our economy is in the midst of a massive technological transformation. As technology advances, incredible opportunities and new jobs are created. Every business plan and every start-up relies on the ability to get access to its consumers and to get access to content. So largely as a result of innovation and proliferation of hundreds of start-ups in the United States, the internet economy today is now worth $966 billion and accounts for almost 6% of our GDP. This is a higher percentage of the US economy than any other industry sector including construction, mining, utilities, agriculture, and education.
So net neutrality, meaning you have an open internet that's not artificially slowed down unless you pay a ransom, is important for small businesses and start-ups and entrepreneurs who rely so much now on an integrated business model where internet access, marketing, advertising, products, and services to reach customers is critical. So we need an open internet. We need it to foster job creation, competition, innovation, and the almost three million Americans who already rely on that internet economy today. When net neutrality was implemented a year-plus ago, we were protecting and making sure that there was no un-level playing field. Basically because of the regulations, we were able to help small businesses and entrepreneurs thrive. But our internet providers and our internet gatekeepers, without net neutrality, would be seized upon by gatekeepers who wanted to change that position.
One slice of the internet economy, the app economy, which is growing every single day, consists of everybody who makes money and has a job thanks to applications and mobile apps powered by the internet. Today, 1.7 million Americans have jobs because of this economy. Nearly 92,000 of those are in my state of Washington. And over the past five years, the app economy has grown at an annual rate of 30%. I don't know another sector that's growing that fast. The average rate for all other jobs is about 1.6%. So by 2020, the app economy could grow to over $100 billion.
Why is this so important? Because we all know that these various applications and apps make our lives better. They make it easier. They're helping us in a busy world do the things that are so important to us with more ease and more certainty. The internet economy is dynamic and supercharged in creating this job growth. And this phenomenon of economic growth and trajectory would not be able without the internet as a platform for economic activity. This is why it's so important that the FCC not, in the dark of night, put down a rule without public comment to try to stop and change this direction that has already been protected by past FCC commissioners. That's why my colleagues and I are here today on a date when everybody is trying to raise awareness because the FCC could act as early as August 17 to try to change these rules.
It's important we oppose new FCC action trying to dismantle an open internet. We need to make sure that we are talking about the harm to consumers, the harm to innovation, and that internet speeds for American consumers are important and they shouldn't be burdened by a cable company telling you, holding you at ransom to pay more just to get faster speeds. Consumers are already struggling with high prices. Cable bills rose 39% from 2011 to 2015, eight times the rate of inflation. In 2015 average cable consumer TV bill was $99 a month. Just a year later, the average consumer cable bill had risen by 4 % to $103. My guess is a lot of people listening to this now are probably thinking, boy, where are we today?
One of the most popular arguments by the enemies of an open internet is say it suppresses investment and leaves consumers with poor broadband infrastructure. Well, that's a false claim. Data shows that investment by publicly traded cable companies and big telephone companies was 5% higher during the two-year period following our protection of an open internet. So clearly people are continuing to make investment. So, Mr. President, I want to make sure that people understand that we do not want to see a change in this policy. We do not want to see American consumers run over by large cable companies who are demanding and demanding higher rates. We want to make sure that we don't end up with a two-tiered internet system, one for big companies who will pay and pay and pay for faster rates and consumers who are left with a very slowed-down, economically-challenged internet that makes it hard for us to continue to innovate. So I encourage the American consumer to go out and contact the FCC Yes, your voice can be heard. The FCC has already received five million comments, and they have until August 17 to hear more. Today we're asking everybody in America to say ‘please don't slow down my internet connection. Don't hurt our economy. Don't hurt American business. Invest in innovation and keep an open internet for the future.’ I thank the President, and I yield the floor.
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