Editor’s Note: Following Dr. Turner-Lee’s testimony, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has since proposed new rules for protecting the open Internet. A fact sheet on his proposal is available here.
On January 21st, Dr. Nicol Turner-Lee, Vice President and Chief Research & Policy Officer at the Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council (MMTC, formerly Minority Media and Telecommunications Council) testified on “Protecting the Internet and Consumers through Congressional Action” before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation and the House Energy and Commerce Committee.
In her remarks, Dr. Turner-Lee reaffirmed MMTC’s position on implementing a straightforward approach to maintaining an open Internet, using Section 706 of the Communications Act to rein in bad actors. Where recent efforts by the FCC to enact prospective open Internet rules have not succeeded, she said Congress is well-positioned to preserve the open Internet through a legislative solution which could also address the broadband adoption needs of communities of color. Dr. Turner-Lee addressed the belief that the Internet be regulated using Title II, a decades-old form of regulation that was designed for regulating telephone companies in a bygone era. In response, Dr. Turner-Lee stated that Title II regulation is ill-suited to current technological and marketplace realities. And while suggestions that the FCC could reduce the adverse effects of Title II regulation through judicious application of its forbearance authority are well-intentioned, she said they miss the point. Even if the Commission could exercise its forbearance authority in a productive manner, she said this approach would be fraught with regulatory uncertainty, rulemakings, litigation, and delays. She also cited economic literature noting that the effects of regulatory uncertainty would disproportionately harm communities of color.
Dr. Turner-Lee offered two MMTC recommendations to Congress to preserve the open Internet that are consistent with the spirit of the “eleven principles for bipartisan rules in the Internet Age” that the Subcommittee has laid out:
- Congress should address, or at a minimum reinforce the FCC’s ability to address, the practice of “digital redlining,” or the refusal to build and serve lower-income communities on the same terms as wealthier communities.
- Congress should ensure that its open Internet rules will be enforced, through the creation of an accessible, affordable, and expedited procedure for the reporting and resolution of complaints. MMTC has previously suggested implementing a consumer-friendly complaint process modeled on the probable cause paradigm in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Dr. Turner-Lee concluded, “If we do not act, the largest sacrifice will be the next generation: children from all classes, races and educational backgrounds may never experience the possibilities that new technology can offer to our communities, our Nation, and their world.”
The FCC is expected to rule on the open Internet this month.
Full transcripts of Dr. Turner-Lee’s House and Senate testimonies, including citations and appendices, are available online:
Watch the full hearings, testimony, and Q&A online:Testimony before the House Testimony before the Senate
The Multicultural Media, Telecom & Internet Council (MMTC, formerly Minority Media and Telecommunications Council) is a national nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting and preserving equal opportunity and civil rights in the mass media, telecommunications and broadband industries, and closing the digital divide. MMTC is generally recognized as the nation’s leading advocate for minority advancement in communications.