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Rubio: Internet Regulation Will Hurt Innovation and Job Creation

Nov 9, 2011 | Press Releases

Senator Marco Rubio
U.S. Senate Floor Speech
November 9, 2011

Sen. Rubio: Thank you Mr. President. I rise in support of this resolution to disapprove the FCC’s open Internet order.

As we all know, the FCC wants to regulate the Internet.

And why?  Well, there must be some sort of market failure that needs correcting, right?  Or some Internet issue that needs fixing? Or some out of control providers that need regulating? After all, why would you need the regulations?

But that’s not the case at all. In fact, what we are talking about is one of the most successful sectors of our economy – one that has flourished with limited government regulation and continued to create jobs in the midst of a very deep recession and economic downturn.

Now since the Internet was privatized in the mid-1990s, it has prospered. The industry’s growth and impact on our economy, as well as its development of new, life-changing technologies and applications, is simply staggering.

Twenty years ago, the Internet as we know it did not even exist. And now, over 2 billion people use it.

Ten years ago, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Skype did not even exist. Now, hundreds of millions of people around the world are users.

Five years ago, mobile applications did not exist. At the end of last year, there were over half a million apps, and over ten billion will be downloaded this year. Hopefully they will be downloading mine because we came up with an app yesterday for our office.

Two years ago, the iPad did not exist. Now, over 25 million have been sold.

All of these advancements have expanded broadband access and encouraged private investment. In 2003, only 15 percent of Americans had access to broadband. And now, over 95 percent do.

And this growth will only continue. In its annual report on the Internet, Cisco projects that the Internet will quadruple in size over the next four years. And the one year growth from 2014 to 2015 will be equal to all the Internet traffic worldwide last year.

Clearly, the Internet industry is growing and innovating at lightning speed. And why has the industry been able to do this? Well, it is because the environment for innovation and job creation has been ripe, with government regulation not getting in their way.

Imagine that – the government has stayed out. It has taken the “light touch” approach, and the industry has prospered as a result. 

The broadband expansion we have seen, the innovation that has occurred with computers and tablets, the explosion of smartphones and mobile devices, and the increased job creation – all have occurred without the FCC’s open Internet order.

So why does the government want to start regulating now?  Is it because the Internet endangers public health or the environment?  Clearly not.

Yet the proponents of Internet regulation claim that the freedom and growth of the Internet are in jeopardy. Quite frankly, it is my respectful opinion that that’s ridiculous.

To suggest that some type of regulation is needed flies in the face of the growth of the Internet economy.

This is one of the problems facing our economy and plaguing our country.  We are regulating where regulation is not needed. We are regulating based on speculation, and we are regulating in search of a problem. 

This is not how we encourage innovation.  This is not how we create certainty in the marketplace, and this is definitely not how to encourage job creation.

Over the past few weeks, all we have talked about is jobs and rightfully so because throughout America, the number one issue facing Americans is jobs or the lack thereof.  Yet here we are debating whether to overturn a regulation on one of the few growth areas of our economy, one of the few sectors that has and is creating good, high-paying jobs.

This should be common sense and it’s just no wonder that people watching at home think that this place, that Washington D.C., that the federal political process, is out of touch and dysfunctional.

Now, as the FCC drafted the open Internet order, the commission heard from broadband providers, including small businesses, about the problems the order would create and the negative impacts it would have on consumers.

One small Internet provider stated that the imposition of network management rules will hinder its ability to obtain investment capital and deploy new services in un-served areas.

The regulations would also increase costs and hamper innovation, which would only further discourage outside investment in the company.

In other words, the Internet regulation that we are talking about here today, this regulation, would lead to lower quality of services and raise operating costs, which would result in higher prices on consumers.

So we can clearly see the impacts of Internet regulation – less investment, less innovation, higher prices for consumers, lower quality services, increased business costs, and ultimately fewer jobs. 

Companies will spend more money on compliance instead of investing in innovation and driving down prices. More money will be spent on lawyers, and not on engineers.

Now let me be clear, the Internet will still exist if Washington bureaucrats get their way on this. The Internet is still going to exist, but the order’s impact will be profound and it’s going to disrupt what has been one of America’s proudest entrepreneurial and industrial achievements in our history.

Now, I have heard proponents say that this regulation will preserve the open Internet as it exists today. But is my humble opinion, respectfully, that this is short sighted.

Personally, I don’t want to continue using the Internet of today. I want the Internet of tomorrow. I want the devices and applications I use today to soon be obsolete and out of date because the industry has continued to churn out something newer, something better and faster.

I want technologies to continue to develop and industries to continue to emerge. We are now using fewer devices for more telecommunications services. And it is not hard to imagine a day when we will use one device for all of them.

Now the industries, that’s where they are headed, that is the direction the industries are headed. But when you throw the government in the middle of it, the pace will slow, uncertainty will enter the marketplace and future innovations may just go unrealized.

One of the beautiful things about the Internet industry is that we don’t know what’s around the corner in terms of new technologies and innovations. If a few years ago you would have told someone you Googled them, they probably would have been offended.  But today we know that means something. So we, going forward, have no idea what the future holds, what the new innovations, what the new ideas, the new technologies are going to be. But we know that technologies that we cannot even imagine today will very soon be part of our everyday lives.

And the question is whether we’re going to encourage that and, particularly, whether we are going to encourage that to happen here, or whether we are going to discourage that from happening.

Regulating the Internet and this specific measure we are trying today to knock down, if it passes, this specific measure will discourage that development.

The FCC and the federal government cannot keep pace with the Internet and the technology industries, and the government should not attempt to catch up through regulation or legislation. And that’s an important point. We are asking this government, we are asking this bureaucratic structure which struggles to keep pace with issues we have been facing for the last 20 years, to somehow keep pace with issues and the technology and the innovations that arrive in the Internet world. Not only do I think that is asking too much, I think it’s impossible.

Therefore, the government should not be looking at ways to preserve the status quo. What our government should be involved in is looking at ways to promote the future of these industries.  And this Internet regulation does not promote the future.  

Mr. President, I have previously spoken on this floor about the new American Century, about whether our country will continue to be a leader in this new century. And I believe, I do, with all the noise you hear and all the bad news every time you turn on the television, I believe with all my heart that there is no reason why this 21st century should not be every bit as much the American Century as the last century was. And one of the reasons I believe that is because of the advances that our entrepreneurs, our innovators are making in this field of the Internet.

If there is one sector of our economy that will ensure that the next century is an American one, it is the Internet and technology sector. It’s an industry where we are the leader, and it is the one that we must continue to lead.

And to do that, we must encourage innovation, incentivize investment, provide certainty in the marketplace and promote a competitive environment that this dynamic industry needs.

And that will require a passage of this resolution of disapproval.

So, I urge my colleagues to vote YES on the resolution.

Mr. President, I yield the floor.