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Rep. Walden continues advocacy for rural broadband access

Representative Greg Walden is at it again—and I mean that in the best way possible. Over the past few years, as issues of so-called “net neutrality” have come to the forefront of our discussion on technology and public policy, Rep. Walden has been a consistent advocate for light-touch regulation. The absence of regulatory burdens restricting innovation is, after all, the primary reason that our Internet-based economy has been able to grow so quickly.

Beating back the invasive vines of over-regulation takes dedication, and although the ultimate goal is to stop a problem at its root, every branch that is cut back represents a small but important victory. One such victory was the recent and unanimous passage of Rep. Walden’s H.R.4596, the Small Business Broadband Deployment Act. This critical piece of legislation helps remove some of the burdens of the FCC’s net neutrality ruling by exempting Internet Service Providers who are also small businesses from reporting requirements. These mandates would have required small businesses to direct resources away from improving, or in some cases, providing service to consumers, and instead, use those resources to hire teams of attorneys.

These issues disproportionately affect smaller, rural telecommunications providers, already strapped for resources. In these circumstances, it’s likely that every dollar diverted to operations solely designed to cut through red tape would otherwise have been invested in extending better, faster service to Oregonians.

These regulations (often called Title II), which have been partially rolled back for small businesses alone, apply nearly 100 year old rules to the entire Internet economy. These rules were written to govern the construction of the hottest new technology of the 19th century, telephone networks.

In a day and age when investment in better, faster broadband networks is driven almost entirely by private companies, encouraging that investment at the state and federal level should be our top priority. Enacting outdated regulations that put more rules and hurdles in the way of companies building our nation’s vital infrastructure does the opposite.

Supporting small business and encouraging small providers to continue their work to build broadband networks that cover the entire country with the fastest upload and download speeds possible is laudable, but we shouldn’t stop there. The impact that small, regional companies can make on our national infrastructure is by definition small and regional. To encourage real progress and incentivize real investment in our broadband networks, rolling back Title II requirements for every company is the best path forward.

This bill represents an important step forward, but it’s a far cry from a complete solution to the problems that the passage of Title II has caused on a national level.  However, Representative Walden deserves a lot of credit for getting the ball rolling on serious reform.

Categories Blog | Tags: | Posted on April 25, 2016

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