Broadband development should not be stifled by federal regulation that intends to make networks more "neutral," the U.S. Chamber of Commerce is arguing through two papers released Monday.
The papers, the first in a series of five that will examine the impact of broadband on certain user groups and for certain purposes, argue that the federal government's current loose regulatory structure has enabled broadband to become a "life-altering tool" both for the general population and for senior citizens specifically.
"An estimated $60 billion has been invested in broadband infrastructure by the communications industry this year," William Kovacs, the U.S. Chamber's vice president for environment, technology, and regulatory affairs, said in a statement. "Given these turbulent economic times, federal policy must continue to support this high-level of investment. This will spur job growth, innovation, and consumer choice."
The lack of Net neutrality laws or other federally-mandated regulations has spurred telecommunications companies to heavily invest in broadband infrastructure, according to the first paper, "Network Effects: An Introduction to Broadband Technology & Regulation." (PDF)
"Moving away from a pro-investment model would halt this organic progress and would have a devastating effect on the U.S. economy, investment, and innovation," it says. "Moreover, policies aimed at management practices are unnecessary and would serve only to chill innovation at the network level and at its edges, resulting in net consumer welfare losses."
Network owners need to be able to manage content flow in order to prioritize important data like 911 voice over IP calls, according to the paper, authored by Charles Davidson and Michael Santorelli of the Advanced Communications Law & Policy Institute at New York Law School. The need to manage networks will only grow as the amount of services offered online grows, it says.
"A variety of proposals have been put forward to regulate the broadband sector under the guise of making the physical infrastructure more 'neutral' to the data flowing over it," the paper says, but such regulations would lessen incentives for investment in broadband and slow the development of content and applications.
The paper recommends legislators focus on targeting broadband funding in regions where it is most needed, reforming the Universal Service Fund, and embracing public-private partnerships to promote broadband deployment.
The second paper, "The Impact of Broadband on Senior Citizens," (PDF) recommends similar support for broadband deployment as well as educating seniors on the usefulness of broadband and expanding their options for getting online. If obstacles for adoption are removed, the paper says, broadband could transform senior life and senior care, just as the senior population is set to expand significantly.
The chamber will later release papers examining the impact of broadband deployment on telemedicine, education, and people with disabilities.