WASHINGTON, June 9, 2014 – The head of the leading trade association for the electronics industry on Wednesday weighed in against classifying broadband as a utility and subjecting it to extensive government regulation.
Instead, regulators should follow a “minimal harm first” principle, said Gary Shapiro, CEO of the Consumer Electronics Association, in a speech at the Brookings Institution here.
Seeking to regulate telecom providers under Title II of the Communications Act would punish success. Communications giants like Comcast, AT&T and Verizon Communications should instead be encouraged to invest as much as possible in the U.S. infrastructure, because “we need their broadband.”
“I’m very fearful of suddenly sending those companies into a new area of regulation – like utilities –where you used to regulate every connection and every device,” he said. “It took 100 years from the invention of the telephone to get to the point of competition and it was unhealthy. But I do want what I have today, which is the ability to get anything I want on the internet, so I like things the way they are.”
The condescending treatment of telecom giants has fostered a lack of trust, he continued. Every time government goes after them, it’s “catnip” for Europeans who wish to encourage American tech companies to move overseas.
“Good intentions scare me,” Shapiro said. “I think [we] should be challenging the industry to come up with what they view as the best practice and let industries and bodies like this one (the Brookings Institution) come up with principles, and if the principles are violated, then act.”
Shapiro also criticized recent Europe Union court decisions for its efforts to balkanize and “blockade the internet.”
“The worst thing I can envision is where there are borders around every country and we cannot communicate and share information,” he said. The internet, he said, ” is our gift to the world.” It is “one of the best things that I think history will prove that the U.S. has done.”