Open Internet Must Balance Consumer Choice with the Incentive to Invest
This afternoon I filed comments in the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding on behalf of ITI and our member companies. Upon first read, I hope the filing is as eye-catching for what’s not in it, as what is. Since the Verizon decision came down – and actually for more than a decade since this debate really began – slogans, catch phrases, and half-truths have been thrown around that are not reflective of what is at stake in this debate. Yes, consumer choice is at the forefront, and rightly, should be. But that is not all that’s on the line.
Preserving the incentive to invest by all parties that have a role in delivering what consumers want, or may want, in the future runs just beneath protecting consumer choice. On one side, is the need to protect the incentive and level playing field for someone to invest in creating the next great app, service, or online content. On the other side – and equally as important – is the need to invest in the network infrastructure so that consumers can get whatever amount of data future apps and service deliver, as soon as they open that app or click a link.
Can we imagine what limited choices we would have if everyone were still accessing the Internet through dial-up? Similarly, can we imagine the demand, or lack there of, for broadband service, without eBay, Skype, Gmail, Netflix, Facebook or the countless other online services options available to consumers today?
It is foolhardy for anyone to make an argument that one side of this coin is more important than the other. That is why in our comments, ITI attempted to acknowledge the important balance that must be protected, so that the consumer continues to have access to the vibrant ecosystem and transformative innovation we have seen over the past two plus decades as the consumer broadband Internet experience has truly taken off.
What’s next? If the incentive to invest by one side or the other is shifted out of balance, consumers may never know.