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Net neutrality is crucial for commerce, consumers

Since it was invented, the Internet has become a necessity in the lives of many. With it, we engage in commerce, games, communication, learning, and we start and grow businesses. Our transactions can transverse the globe in the matter of seconds. It’s really the one invention that can change lives in the blink of an eye from the comfort of our living rooms.

These activities that we have come to enjoy and rely on came about because of the light regulatory approach to broadband services that have encouraged the Internet’s increasing speed and expansion.

Nationally, Internet speeds have increased 1,500 percent in the past decade. The good news is it’s only getting faster — average speeds increased 25 percent in 2013, and average peak speeds increased 32 percent.

And, it’s a fact that the nation’s broadband providers are committed to the Internet. Consider that from 1996 to 2012, broadband providers — such as Cox Communications and others — invested $1.2 trillion in Internet infrastructure.

The top six broadband providers invested more than $50 billion into jobs and our nation’s infrastructure in 2012 alone. From 2012 to 2013, broadband-related jobs in the United States grew by 40 percent.

The national “Net neutrality” debate you may have heard about has been interpreted by many as the solution to a problem. The trouble with that is there is no problem. The Internet is not broken. It continues to be the ever-increasing robust engine of commerce, communications and learning that it has been since its creation.

Even more troubling is that some are calling for the FCC to enact an outdated set of laws and regulations, referred to as Title II, that were put in place 80 years ago to regulate the telephone industry. Do you think 80-year-old regulations can help the Internet continue to grow and be the transformative technology that we’ve come to love?

Of course not. The Internet that we know would be changed and not for the better.

Enacting Title II would impose a set of regulatory handcuffs that would require companies like Cox to get permission and approval from the government every time it wants to provide its customers with a new service. The drive for innovation would sputter.

In addition, new taxes and increased fees that would result from reclassification would cause consumer bills to increase and widen the digital divide.

And let’s not forget that consumer protections would be hampered by Title II as well. The regulation sweeps away the Federal Trade Commission’s oversight that protects consumers against unfair business practices.

This level of government intervention of the Internet would halt our progress at a time in which we can least afford it. The FCC should continue the current light regulatory approach that has made it possible for the Internet to grow and prosper for the millions of users in San Diego and across the nation.

Stein is board president of the San Diego County Taxpayers Association.

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