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Posts Tagged ‘Technology’
December 2nd, 2016 at 4:24 pm
ATSC 3.0: What Could It Mean for American Consumers?
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Next month’s arrival of a new Trump Administration, alongside a Congress ready to hit the ground running, promises a flurry of corrective activity after eight years of Barack Obama.

However, Americans should remain vigilant against regulatory mischief that some are trying to push through unnoticed at the outset of the new Administration and Congress.

Exhibit A:  An effort by broadcasters to convince Obama’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve an entirely new broadcast television standard known as ATSC 3.0.

In a nutshell, the ATSC 3.0 standard amounts to yet another new federal action upon a private marketplace and a handout to a favored industry that could inflict significant and unnecessary costs, ultimately to be paid by consumers.

Under current law, cable and satellite television providers must carry local television stations, so the regulatory scales are already tipped in broadcasters’ favor.  The proposed new mandate could extend the scope of providers’ obligations requiring them to transmit broadcast signals in the new standard to the public.

As a result, consumers who currently receive local stations over the air or via cable or satellite providers suddenly would face the possibility of incurring the cost of new equipment in order to receive the new signal, as current equipment does not support the new standard.  Obviously, millions of consumers who are already struggling to make ends meet could thus be forced to pay – whether through higher monthly subscription fees or direct charge – for new equipment for a “benefit” that may not be needed or even desired.

Satellite and cable providers could also face technological hurdles to accommodate the new standard, which could inevitably lead to additional costs and quality assurance issues.  Ultimately, subscribers could have to pay those costs and endure those potential technological glitches as well.

Keep in mind that all of these costs and changes could be imposed without a sober cost/benefit analysis from the FCC.  It’s precisely the sort of hasty, top-down, crony capitalist federal regulatory action that has tested the limits of American tolerance over the past decade.

Technological advance is a good thing, whether in the TV market or elsewhere.  But that’s something that should occur as the result of market forces, not through fast-tracked federal regulatory action riddled by too many uncertainties.

March 10th, 2016 at 8:16 pm
Mississippi Should Not Gamble With Taxpayer Dollars

Five things Mississippi taxpayers should know and worry about the Gulf Coast “Fiber Optic Ring”

1)  A new plan proposes to use a portion of Mississippi’s British Petroleum (BP) oil spill settlement to build a government-owned broadband network in South Mississippi. The network or “Fiber Ring” would, in theory, connect a dozen Gulf Coast cities across three counties. Local officials estimate that it could cost over $100 million.

2)  So far, the state has promised $5 million of the BP funds towards the Fiber Ring, though it is not a fiscally sound proposal.  In fact, there’s no indication of where the additional $95 million needed to finance this project will come from, but taxpayers will likely foot the bill.

3)  Government-owned networks rarely succeed, and residents already have access to high-speed Internet provided by private companies. Competing with the private sector will only force taxpayers to subsidize a costly failure.  Private Internet Service Providers (ISPs) already bring high-speed broadband to 97 percent of Harrison County residents, according to BroadbandNow.com.

4)  When the government enters a broadband market, prices for consumers do not decrease.  In fact, government-owned broadband networks have been found to charge consumers more than private firms, for similar services.

5)  Other regions have tried (and failed) at building and running government-owned broadband networks.  Here’s a look at some of the results:

Burlington Telecom, VT
Burlington Telecom was started in 2008 to provide telecommunications services to the citizens of Burlington, VT.  The network floundered, and by 2014, it owed $33.5 million to Citibank.  The city reached a final settlement in which it agreed to pay about a third of what was owed, and turned to the private sector for help financing the settlement.

Memphis Networx, TN
Memphis Networx was started as a public-private partnership by Memphis Light, Gas, and Water Division (MLGW) in 1999.  By 2007, the network had failed and MLGW sold Networx to Colorado holding company Communications Infrastructure Investments for $11.5 million after losing about $28 million in public funds on the venture.

UTOPIA, UT
UTOPIA was started in 2002 to provide Internet services to 11 cities in Utah.  The network’s initial capital investment was $135 million, and by 2014 the debt had climbed to $500 million.  The cities involved have been looking for a private buyer to take over their network for several years.

CDE Lightband, TN
CDE Lightband was started in 2007 with a $16 million loan from the Clarksville Electric Power Board’s electric division to its broadband division.  In 2009, the utility was approved to take an additional $4.5 million in loans to finance the network, leaving taxpayers and utility ratepayers on the hook for the debt.

Help CFIF spread the word.  Email this link to your colleagues, friends and family members in Mississippi and/or share it on social media.  To download a copy of CFIF’s educational fact sheet about the Gulf Coast “Fiber Optic Ring,” click here (.pdf).

January 21st, 2016 at 11:36 am
Coalition of 45 Organizations Urges Support for Making the Ban on Internet Access Taxes Permanent
In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the Center for Individual Freedom (“CFIF”) today joined a coalition of more than 40 other organizations representing tens of millions of consumers from across the nation to urge support of a permanent extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act currently embedded in H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act.
“In the 17 years since Congress first passed a ban on Internet access taxes, the Internet has evolved from a luxury into a necessity of modern life. ITFA helped to spark this revolution,” the letter states.  “Without ITFA, it is likely that Internet services would be taxed at the high rates of tax imposed on traditional telecommunications services, which often are more than double the rate of tax imposed on other goods and services.”
The letter concludes by urging the U.S. Senate “to act swiftly and decisively to pass a permanent extension of ITFA.”
To read the letter in its entirety, click here (.pdf).
To read the coalition press release, click here.

In a letter to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, the Center for Individual Freedom (“CFIF”) today joined a coalition of more than 40 other organizations representing tens of millions of consumers from across the nation to urge support of a permanent extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act currently embedded in H.R. 644, the Trade Facilitation and Trade Enforcement Act.

“In the 17 years since Congress first passed a ban on Internet access taxes, the Internet has evolved from a luxury into a necessity of modern life. ITFA helped to spark this revolution,” the letter states.  “Without ITFA, it is likely that Internet services would be taxed at the high rates of tax imposed on traditional telecommunications services, which often are more than double the rate of tax imposed on other goods and services.”

The letter concludes by urging the U.S. Senate “to act swiftly and decisively to pass a permanent extension of ITFA.”

To read the letter in its entirety, click here (.pdf).

To read the coalition press release, click here.

November 4th, 2013 at 2:43 pm
CFIF TechNotes
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(1)  In a Daily Caller commentary entitled “Conservatives and Libertarians Should Support America’s Copyright Protections, Not Malign Them” I highlight the causal connection between U.S. intellectual property (IP) protections and our unmatched artistic and technological dominance:

America’s system of copyright and intellectual property (IP) protections, which incentivize creators and reward their efforts, has resulted in the most innovative, influential, artistic, and prosperous nation in human history.  No country or alternative system even rivals our record of creative preeminence in music, movies, television shows, news, and literature.”

On that basis, I also address some myths regarding proposed Congressional legislation entitled the Free Market Royalty Act (FMRA):

That bill would finally end terrestrial radio’s special government privilege against paying performance rights that artists are allowed to negotiate with all other forms of use.  Simply put, the proposed legislation doesn’t “regulate the market” as Khanna claims.  More accurately, the FMRA seeks to create a more level playing field for all forms of broadcast.  Currently, artists aren’t compensated when their works are played on terrestrial radio, except through a cumbersome licensing process.  This bill would change that and allow them to negotiate.”

(2)  Over at AEI’s TechPolicyDaily.com, Jeffrey Eisenach and James Glassman wrote that “It’s Time to Move Ahead at the FCC”:

The DISCLOSE Act was proposed in 2010 by Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) and Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) in the wake of the Citizens United decision by the U.S. Supreme Court.  The act, in our view, was genuinely pernicious and in all likelihood unconstitutional.  For example, it would prohibit political contributions by recipients of TARP (Troubled Asset Relief Program) money and by any firm that received government contracts of more than $10 million.”

The authors agree with Senator Ted Cruz (R – Texas) that it is “understandable and appropriate” to raise questions, but that now the FCC can hopefully move on and act in ways that spawn innovation, incentivize investment and reduce costs for consumers.

On that note, as reported in USA Today, “The U.S. Senate on Tuesday confirmed venture capitalist Thomas Wheeler to head the FCC and, as a commissioner, Mike O’Rielly, who had been an advisor to Senate Minority Whip John Cornyn, R-Tex.”   With these confirmations, the FCC now has a full roster.

to reduce costs for consumers, spawn faster innovation, and incentivize more capital investment. Let’s get on with it. – See more at: http://www.techpolicydaily.com/communications/time-move-ahead-fcc/#sthash.8RccQpA5.2w29Hnf4.dpuf
hether the mandatory disclosure provisions of DISCLOSE Lite are constitutional is highly questionable, and we seriously doubt the FCC has authority to impose such requirements on its own.   In any case, it would be completely inappropriate for an independent regulatory agency like the FCC to even attempt unilateral action, especially in the face of strong opposition.  It is perfectly understandable and appropriate for Sen. Cruz to raise these question – See more at: http://www.techpolicydaily.com/communications/time-move-ahead-fcc/#sthash.8RccQpA5.2w29Hnf4.dpuf

(3)  At HighTechForum.org, Richard Bennett writes in a piece entitled “IP Transition:  The One Percent Problem” that “the way forward is to incentivize the formation of private firms operating with diminishing levels of public subsidy”:

The hardest thing to do in Washington is to unwind a body of regulation with a long history, and the telephone has been around forever in technology terms.  In 1876, Alexander Graham Bell picked up a telephone and said:  “Mr. Watson–come here–I want to see you.”  In 1913, The Justice Department made an out-of-court settlement with AT&T that allowed it to operate as a government-sanctioned monopoly as long as it provided universal service within a defined territory and allowed other telephone systems to interconnect with its network to serve others.  By 1984, technology changes made this arrangement untenable and the Justice Department’s anti-monopoly suit against AT&T broke the company up into a number of parts.  After 12 years in which the nation’s telecom business was run out of a judge’s chambers, Congress finally passed the Telecommunications Act of 1996, imposing new obligations meant to promote competition for local and long-distance telephone service.  By 2010, the Telecom Act was irrelevant as telephone users had began to end their Plain Old Telephone Service (POTS) subscriptions in favor of mobile telephony and broadband.  Today POTS is not economically viable.”

(4)  On The Hill’s technology blog, Kate Tummarello and Brendan Sasso update us on events affecting the FCC and FTC:

The government shutdown has forced the Federal Communications Commission to delay the planned auction of the “H block” of wireless spectrum.  The commission had set the auction for Jan. 14, but on Monday, the agency announced that date will be bumped back to Jan. 22.  House FTC hearing postponed: The House Commerce, Manufacturing and Trade subcommittee has postponed Thursday’s planned hearing on the future of the Federal Trade Commission.  The House canceled Thursday’s session so members can attend the funeral of Rep. Bill Young (R-Fla.).”

(5)  At Politico, Brooks Boliek writes an update piece entitled “FCC Forced to Play Catch-Up After Shutdown”:

The FCC is delaying high-profile actions, including a key spectrum auction, as it plays catch-up after the government shutdown.  Acting Chairwoman Mignon Clyburn had originally scheduled an auction for the so-called H-Block for Jan. 14.  The auction, which will be the first major airwaves sale since 2008, is now slated to start on Jan. 22, the FCC announced today.  That could push it into next year’s fiscal battles.  The bill that just passed Congress funds the government through Jan. 15 and raises the debt ceiling through Feb. 7.  The shutdown delays add new pressure to the FCC, which is in the midst of major policy initiatives and stuck at three commissioners with two nominees stalled in Congress.  The H-Block is the first of a string of planned auctions designed to get more airwaves into the marketplace to feed data-hungry smartphones and power high-speed communications systems.  The commission lost critical planning time with most of its nearly 2,000 staffers furloughed for 16 days.  ‘These schedule changes are necessary to give potential bidders and commission staff additional time for planning and preparation,’ the FCC said in a public notice issued Monday.”

(6)  At Mountain View Voice, Angela Hey details online education innovations in “Coursera Educates Five Million Students and Revenues Start Growing”:

Mountain View’s Coursera offers free online courses from the world’s leading universities.  Today, at the Global Mobile Internet Conference in San Francisco’s Moscone Center, Stanford professor Andrew Ng described why he co-founded Coursera, which launched in 2012.  The conference, which is also held in Beijing, features mobile apps, wearable devices and connected cars.  Ng is director of Stanford’s artificial intelligence laboratory.  At Stanford he can teach 400 students.  With Coursera he taught 100,000 students in his machine learning class.  The other co-founder is Daphne Koller, a Stanford professor of computer science.  Five million students have registered Coursera accounts to take MOOCs (massive open online courses).”

(7)  Over at Forbes, Steve Forbes himself laments how telecom sector regulations simply aren’t keeping appropriate pace with technological change in “Government Should Mandate that Car Makers Invest Billions in Horse-Drawn Carriages!”:

Should Ford Motor have to reintroduce the Model T instead of investing in new cars that meet the needs of today’s consumers?  Should Apple be made to bring back the Apple II instead of investing in new products?   Should dental device makers be forced to invest in drills powered not by electricity but by foot pedals?  Crazy?  Not in telecommunications.  Special interests want to require traditional landline telephone companies like Verizon and AT&T to increase investment in antiquated technologies like copper-based telephone services that most consumers are choosing not to use.  These phone companies are restricted by archaic regulations that were put in place back when the Bell system was a monopoly.  Consumers then had one option, the landline phone.”

(8)  Finally, over at Broadcasting & Cable, John Eggerton writes on points of left-right agreement and disagreement in “Public Knowledge, AT&T Weigh in with Hill on IP Trials”:

Public Knowledge and AT&T agree on five touchstones for the IP transition but disagree on AT&T’s suggested trials, according to testimony for an Oct. 23 House Communications Subcommittee hearing on the transition.  Harold Feld, senior VP of Public Knowledge, delineated those values in his testimony as follows:  service to all Americans, interconnection and competition, consumer protection, reliability, and public safety.  Feld adds that AT&T’s suggested IP transition trials should be rejected.  However, AT&T countered Feld’s statement, saying the FCC should expedite those ‘real world tests.’  Feld will tell the legislators that test trials are needed, but they must be guided by those values and they should not be the trials AT&T has offered up.  In his prepared testimony AT&T senior VP James Cicconi complimented Feld on ‘identifying the key consumer protections needed for a successful IP transition.  We may end up differing on details,” he said, “but their framework is sound.  Clearly the fundamental principles of universal connectivity, interconnection, consumer protection, reliability and public safety are hallmarks of our Nation’s commitment to communications and cannot be lost in this process.’  Cicconi says its trials offer ‘clear benefits’ with no costs and says AT&T is not looking for the IP world to be a regulation-free zone.  ‘We understand that there will be a set of core consumer protections that exist,’ he said.  ‘While I might disagree with the FCC on particular matters, I would concede readily the FCC can play a strong role in protecting consumers, and it has demonstrated that in recent years.  Public safety should fall within the FCC’s consumer protection mandate as well.'”

And those are your CFIF TechNotes for this week!

July 14th, 2011 at 10:14 am
CFIF Urges Support for Wireless Tax Fairness Act to Prevent Higher Taxes on Wireless Services
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In a letter sent yesterday to every member of the House Judiciary Committee, the Center for Individual Freedom (“CFIF”) joined with other free market organizations collectively representing millions of American taxpayers to urge support of the Wireless Tax Fairness Act (H.R. 1002 / S.543).

The Wireless Tax Fairness Act would put a five-year freeze on attempts by state and local governments to raise taxes on wireless services.  The legislation is being marked up today by the House Judiciary Committee.

The letter, which was organized by Americans for Tax Reform’s Digital Liberty project, reads in part:

Across the country, state and local governments are putting a substantial burden on consumers by raising discriminatory taxes on wireless services to fund special interest projects and cover up overspending addictions.  Today, the average consumer pays upwards of 16 percent in taxes on their wireless bill every month.  In some localities, wireless taxes have skyrocketed to well over 25 percent.

A federal solution to curbing wireless taxation has become imperative.  The mandatory freeze on wireless taxes under H.R. 1002/S. 543 is a pro-consumer, pro-business, anti-tax, and bipartisan solution to this growing problem.”

Read the full letter here.

January 3rd, 2011 at 11:51 am
New Year’s Resolution for FCC from WSJ’s Crovitz: Focus on Competition, Not Regulations
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The Wall Street Journal’s L. Gordon Crovitz just puts on a clinic on tech policy each Monday with his weekly “Information Age” column.  Today is no exception.  Entitled “Tech Resolutions for the New Year,” Crovitz directs his first resolution toward Chairman Julius Genachowski and the Obama Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that has again defied public opinion, a unanimous D.C. Court of Appeals and a bipartisan Congressional majority with last month’s “Net Neutrality” resolution:

For Julius Genachowski, FCC Chairman:  Focus on competition, not regulations, lobbyists and lawyers.  By a partisan 3-2 vote, the Agency just before the holidays issued a plan to regulate the Internet.  The claim is ‘net neutrality,’ but throughout the 194-page order the reality is vague standards such as ‘reasonableness.’  This uncertainty creates a ‘regulator-may-I?’ approach to innovation and ensures years of litigation for a vital industry that evolved freely.  The real problem remains a lack of broadband competition, caused by government grants of monopolies and duopolies.  As open source guru Lawrence Lessig recently argued in Newsweek, the FCC should be replaced with regulators whose mission is ‘minimal intervention to maximize innovation.'”

Good advice.  Crovitz’s weekly commentaries are a must-read – especially if your name is Julius Genachowski.

December 17th, 2010 at 11:53 am
Just the Facts: America Still Leads the World in R&D Spending – By Far
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This week, the Battelle Memorial Institute reported that China will surpass Japan in 2011 as the second-largest spender on research and development, spending $154 billion to Japan’s $144 billion.  An interesting milestone, perhaps, but that should be kept in its proper perspective.  Specifically, that the United States still spends well over twice as much on R&D – over $405 billion in 2011.  That’s significantly more than China and Japan combined.

This isn’t merely esoteric or trivial.  To the contrary, it’s important to keep in mind at a time when naysayers here and around the globe question America’s continuing leadership role, and threaten to undermine American preeminence via regulations such as “Net Neutrality” and other big-government “solutions” in search of imaginary problems.

October 4th, 2010 at 10:45 pm
What the Economy Needs: Horse-Drawn Carriages, Candlelight, and Manual Bank Withdrawals
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The Los Angeles Times — that bastion of journalistic daring do — has discovered that recessions cause job losses. Don’t laugh — they will probably submit this to the Pulitzer people.

What really steams the Times’ clams, however, is that manual labor is being replaced by mechanical automation. Writing in this morning’s edition of the paper, reporter Alana Semuels notes:

Forced to cut costs during the recession, employers across the country are looking at ways to avoid hiring. They’ve accelerated use of computers and technology, replacing administrative assistants with software, cashiers with self-service kiosks and laborers with machines.

These structural changes mean some jobs that disappeared during the recession may never come back. Productivity gains are good for company profits and help the economy grow over the long run. But in the short term, the shift is exacerbating America’s jobless recovery.

Kudos to Semuels for at least noting the importance of productivity gains, but there’s a still something of a misdirect here. It’s probably an overstatement to say that employers “are looking at ways to avoid hiring” (my money is on the fact that most employers would love to be in a financial position to consider new employees). While there are many instances where shifting to automation is inherently superior to relying on labor, the scales are tilted by government intervention. Consider this passage from elsewhere in the article:

“Labor is so expensive,” said [farmer Mike] Young, whose great-grandfather started farming row crops in Kern County in 1910. “There’s their wages, truck, insurance, workers’ comp and the safety regulations. We went to a high-value crop that needed less labor input.”

Notice a trend? With the single exemption of trucks (and even that’s debatable given California’s automotive taxes), these are all factors created or exacerbated by government. California has one of the highest minimum wages in the nation, a heavily regulated insurance sector, and excessive workers’ comp and safety regulations. Technology may have an inherent economic appeal, but the challenge it presents to labor is only compounded by state government’s attempts to “help” the working man.

Apart from government distortions of the market, however, there is a bigger point to be made here. Technology’s displacements of the labor force may be jarring, but they lead to a stronger economy (the capital savings can be directed towards more productive investments) and an infinitely better life for all Americans. After all, we could have attempted to protect the horse-drawn carriage industry by suppressing the development of the automobile, subsidized makers of candlesticks and gas lamps by impeding the development of the light bulb, and employed many more bank tellers by standing athwart the ATM. But we’d live in a society that had made decisively less progress from 100 years ago than the one we currently inhabit.

This principle was captured brilliantly by the French political economist Frederic Bastiat in a satirical letter that he wrote to the French Parliament under the aegis of seeking “protection” for his nation’s candlestick makers:

We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price; for the moment he appears, our sales cease, all the consumers turn to him, and a branch of French industry whose ramifications are innumerable is all at once reduced to complete stagnation. This rival, which is none other than the sun, is waging war on us so mercilessly we suspect he is being stirred up against us by perfidious Albion (excellent diplomacy nowadays!), particularly because he has for that haughty island a respect that he does not show for us.

When you’re 150 years behind the French on economics, you know you’re in trouble. Or that you work for the Los Angeles Times.

July 12th, 2010 at 4:48 pm
Tech Sector Can Propel America’s Recovery – If Government Doesn’t Subdue It
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America’s technology sector can provide a wellspring of economic dynamism and new employment.  As long as government doesn’t poison that potentially abundant font, that is.

At a seminar today entitled “Technology and Economic Recovery” hosted by Americans for Technology Leadership, panelists Shahin Kohan, Dr. Joseph Fuhr and Karen Kerrigan explained that our information technology (IT) sector offers a much-needed vehicle by which we can overcome economic stagnation.  Dr. Fuhr explained that IT spending is expected to grow 2.3% per year between today and 2013, compared to expected gross domestic product (GDP) growth of just 0.5% during that span, and that employment in the IT industry will grow by over 1 million jobs compared to expected employment shrinkage in other fields.

For her part, Ms. Kerrigan, who serves as President and CEO of the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council and founded Women Entrepreneurs, explained the destructive consequences of federal overregulation and taxation for small enterprises that create most new jobs in America.  Ms. Kerrigan pointed out that the prospect of even more suffocating regulations and taxation on small business and technology entrepreneurs only discourages innovation, expansion and hiring.  Mr. Kohan, an apparel entrepreneur from Los Angeles who is CEO of Focal Technology Solutions, Inc., illustrated ways in which new technology can assist creative entrepreneurs in a highly competitive worldwide market, along with terrifying examples of how state, local and federal bureaucracy can destroy American jobs and businesses.

The message was simple:  give technology enterprises freedom, and innovation, and critical job growth will soon follow.

June 11th, 2010 at 5:28 pm
Poll: Technology Companies Highly Favored, Despite Most Institutions’ Unpopularity
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“Americans are not very satisfied with most prominent institutions.”  That’s the opening comment of a scientific poll released today by the Pew Research Center.

A striking exception?  Technology companies.

By an enormous 68% to 18% margin, Americans state that technology companies have a positive “effect on the way things are going in the country.”  This stands among the highest of thirteen institutions rated, including such entities as Congress, the federal government, religious institutions and the entertainment industry.  Small businesses also scored high in public esteem, by a 71% to 19% margin.

Yet Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski and pro-regulation activists push “Net Neutrality” Internet regulation under the myth that we’re facing some alleged broadband or technological crisis?  This vivid poll result should open their eyes, especially following our observation yesterday that 91% are happy with their home broadband speed.

In contrast, the public rates the very federal government that would impose “Net Neutrality” negatively by a 65% to 25% margin.  Congress is also rated negatively by a 65% to 24% margin, and labor unions disfavored by a 49% to 32% margin.

The crisis isn’t in broadband or the state of our technology sector, Chairman Genachowski.  The crisis lies in public confidence in over-regulatory federal bureaucracies like yours.