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The Christian Coalition of America is an important voice for pro-family values. However, in recent testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, the group threw its support behind a new “Washington-knows-best” regulatory scheme that would not only stifle innovation and growth, but also limit the ability of America’s parents to protect their children from objectionable and dangerous Internet content.
Today's Internet is an exciting and ever-evolving engine of phenomenal technological growth for our digital economy. The Internet also knows no political boundaries. Democrats and Republicans alike have identified high-speed Internet deployment, affordability and accessibility – for Americans from across all social backgrounds, in both rural and urban areas – as an important policy goal that all can agree upon.
According to the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 47 percent of adults have a broadband connection at home, a 17 percent increase in the last two years. This increase in broadband connections is transforming the way Americans communicate, learn and live their daily lives.
As recently as 2005, most Internet users were not watching streaming video or downloading television programs because of bandwidth limitations (one hour of television viewing takes up 17,000 times more bandwidth than viewing a normal web page). Today, students are more dependent on the Internet than ever before, as many classes and lessons are available through streaming video. At-risk patients can upload test results over a broadband connection, and doctors can share medical images with rural or home-bound patients. New video technology allows American small business entrepreneurs to dive into the global market.
For the most part, Washington has kept the Internet free of burdensome regulation. This has allowed Internet service providers to invest in their broadband networks, thereby making them faster, smarter, and safer.
But this broadband revolution could soon come to an end. Congressman Edward Markey (D-Massachusetts) has introduced legislation (misleadingly named “The Internet Freedom Preservation Act”) that would lead to so-called “network neutrality” regulation. Specifically, the Markey bill would “express the policy of the United States to safeguard … the Internet by adopting and enforcing baseline protections to guard against unreasonable discriminatory favoritism.” In effect, the Markey bill establishes as policy that the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will for the first time regulate the Internet.
Such net neutrality legislation would not only kill the deployment of broadband connections, but would prohibit Internet service providers from managing their networks, which brings us back to the Christian Coalition of America, the newest member of the pro-net neutrality forces. During the hearing, the Christian Coalition accused broadband providers of China-like tactics to censor speech over the Internet. However, the fact is that the FCC already has rules prohibiting the blocking or delaying of email or text messages.
In a letter to Members of Congress, a group of prominent social and economic conservatives, including Gary Bauer of American Values, David Keene of the American Conservative Union, Larry Cirignano of Catholic Vote.org and Grover Norquist of Americans for Tax Reform, wrote: “It is critically important for parents and broadband service providers to continue to have these tools available to them because despite what network neutrality proponents may say, all content on the web is not equal and should not be treated equally.”
One of the most serious consequences of net neutrality is the subtle but frightening erosion of a parent’s ability to safeguard their child’s experience on the Internet. Rather than improving Internet service, net neutrality regulation would hurt our economy and our families.
Cesar Conda, a former economic policy advisor to Vice President Dick Cheney and former Governor Mitt Romney, is a Senior Fellow at Freedom Works, and consults for several telecommunications industry clients.