Senate Majority Whip Sen. John Thune (R-S.D.), chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, Innovation, and the Internet, today renewed his support for bipartisan net neutrality legislation. Thune also discussed Senate Democrats’ false claim, which earned them three Pinocchios from the Washington Post fact checker in 2018, that the internet as Americans knew it was going to disappear with the Federal Communications Commission’s repeal of heavy-handed Obama-era internet regulations. Not only was the Democrats’ claim wrong in 2018, but the internet is flourishing and access to broadband services continues to grow at a rapid rate today.
Click here to watch Thune’s speech.
Thune’s remarks below (as prepared for delivery):
“Mr. President, two years ago at this time, we were hearing that the internet as we know it was going to disappear.
“On February 27, 2018, Senate Democrats sent a tweet warning that Americans would be getting the internet one word at a time.
“Because the Federal Communications Commission had repealed heavy-handed Obama-era internet regulation.
“If we didn’t immediately undo the FCC’s rules change, Democrats warned, the effects on internet access would be catastrophic.
“Well, Mr. President, two years later, the internet as we know it isn’t just still with us – it’s flourishing.
“Broadband access has expanded, Americans are enjoying faster internet speeds, and we’re implementing 5G internet technology across the nation, including in more rural places like South Dakota.
“It turns out that the internet doesn’t fall apart without the heavy hand of government – it thrives.
“And that should be an important lesson for us going forward.
“Historically speaking, Mr. President, the federal government had taken a light-touch approach to internet regulation.
“The government largely stayed out of the internet’s way, and innovation and creativity flourished, delivering everything from Netflix to weather apps to Uber.
“But in 2014, the Obama administration decided that it wanted the federal government to start regulating the internet more heavily.
“And in 2015, the Obama Federal Communications Commission passed the Open Internet Order, which dramatically expanded the federal government’s power over the internet in the name of net neutrality.
“Now, Mr. President, you might not know it from Democrats’ rhetoric, but net neutrality is a concept that enjoys broad support in both parties.
“I support net neutrality and rules that prevent blocking, throttling, or the paid prioritization of internet traffic.
“I don’t think a major service provider should be able to block a small news startup, and I don’t think Netflix should be able to pay to have its search results appear before anyone else’s.
“But what the Obama FCC did in 2015 went far beyond net neutrality.
“In the name of keeping the internet open to everyone, the Obama FCC asserted broad new government powers over the internet using rules that were designed for telephone monopolies back during the Great Depression.
“This opened the door to a whole host of new internet regulations, including price regulations.
“And unsurprisingly, Mr. President, the FCC’s move resulted in a decline in broadband investment, as companies saw the possibility of burdensome new regulations.
“That was bad news for Americans, especially Americans in rural states like my home state of South Dakota.
“Getting broadband to rural communities is already more challenging than installing broadband in cities or suburbs, and the possibility of heavier regulations acted as a further disincentive to expanding access.
“Fast forward to 2017, and the Federal Communications Commission under Chairman Pai voted to repeal the heavy-handed internet regulation passed by the Obama FCC.
“Democrats, as I’ve already mentioned, responded hysterically, predicting that the internet as we know it would disappear.
“Providers, they warned, would slow down internet speeds to a crawl and block access to desired content.
“Except, of course, none of that has happened.
“Here’s what has actually happened:
“Broadband investment has rebounded.
“In 2018, private broadband investment rose by $3 billion.
“Broadband access has expanded.
“The FCC reports that in 2018, and I quote, “broadband providers, both small and large, deployed fiber networks to 5.9 million new homes, the largest number ever recorded.”
“Internet speeds have increased.
“And the nation is poised for widespread adoption of the next generation of internet – 5G.
“All this, despite light-touch government regulation – or perhaps more accurately, because of light-touch government regulation.
“At a time when Democrats are pushing for government takeovers of everything from our health care to our energy choices, it’s important to remember that a lot of times heavy-handed government involvement causes problems, instead of solving them.
“Of course there’s a place for government regulations, but more government involvement does not automatically mean a better outcome.
“In fact, a lot of the time it means the opposite.
“Giving the federal government more power over the internet not only didn’t help anything, it actually discouraged the investment needed to ensure all Americans have access to reliable high-speed internet service.
“Lifting the heavy hand of government regulation, on the other hand, encouraged broadband investment, which is resulting in better internet access for more Americans.
“Mr. President, if we want the internet to continue to thrive and serve as an engine of economic innovation and advancement, we should ensure that the federal government stays away from heavy-handed regulations.
“I have spent years calling for a bipartisan net neutrality bill that would address concerns about blocking while codifying a light-touch approach to internet regulation.
“While the current FCC has established a healthy approach to regulation, a different administration could return us to the days of the Obama FCC – and slow down internet advances like 5G and the expansion of broadband in rural communities.
“I will continue to work for bipartisan net neutrality legislation that ensures that the government will not weigh down the internet with unnecessary, heavy-handed regulations.
“I hope my Democrat colleagues will join me.”
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