Now that the election is behind us, we can put the rhetoric aside and get back to work on policy solutions for our most important challenges.
Net neutrality is an issue that we’ve been hearing about for a longtime. Following the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order, this year, many states — Oregon included — have decided to pass legislation requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to maintain the principles of net neutrality. Because this issue shows no signs of becoming any less divisive, it makes sense that now is the right time for Congress to act and pass comprehensive legislation to preserve an open internet.
Recently, I cohosted an event with the Oregon Farm Bureau, featuring U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (OR-5). Rep. Schrader addressed issues related to rural connectivity and the growing digital divide and the need for policies that drive broadband investments. He highlighted the promise delivered by high-speed connectivity for rural areas. Connectivity will facilitate everything from better healthcare and better education to better public safety. He also pointed to the need to for ISPs and policy leaders to collaborate on solutions, a point on which he is exactly right.
We agree on the basic principles of net neutrality: No favoring or prioritizing of internet traffic, no blocking, no throttling, no content discrimination and total transparency. Federal legislation to help codify these principles would ensure that ISPs, content providers and social media platforms including Amazon, Facebook and Google, would abide by a clear set of privacy and data security rules.
Ending the net neutrality debate will mean we can get back to a focus on solutions for connecting all Americans to high-speed internet, but especially those in rural areas. This will require substantial private investment, and certainty on net neutrality will help move that along. Congress should take the first step in ensuring the regulatory certainty that is needed to promote investment in our communities.
We need more leaders like Rep. Schrader who recognize the importance of connectivity and will work to find common ground on bridging the rural-urban divide and a solution to the ongoing debate over net neutrality.
Tom Gurr of Issaquah, Wash., is executive director of the Pacific Technology Alliance. The mission of the Pacific Technology Alliance (PacTech) is to educate citizens and policy makers throughout Washington and Oregon about emerging technology issues and to promote policies that foster competition, innovation, increased choice and access to technology.