Jerry Apodaca is a former Governor of New Mexico.
The open spaces of New Mexico are integral to our state’s identity. We love our rural vistas, our deserts and forests, the peace and quiet. But let’s face it – it’s not easy to bring services such as high-speed Internet to rural areas of the state. We are fortunate that technological advances in wired, wireless and even satellite delivery are overcoming the issue of stringing coax, copper and fiber to every home and business in New Mexico.
In fact, also 99 percent of New Mexicans have access to wireless broadband coverage, according to BroadbandNow.com. Wired coverage reaches more than nine in 10 New Mexicans and three out of four have access to wired speeds of 25 megabits per second (mbps) – considered more than adequate for the video streaming that is so popular today.
Despite this success, we note that Sen. Tom Udall has lamented, “Too many New Mexicans are already stuck in an Internet slow lane.” What will it take to get everyone higher speed Internet service? The continued private investment of billions of dollars in Internet infrastructure is a big part of the answer.
Unfortunately, the Federal Communications Commission threw a roadblock on that path to success recently when three commissioners decided that the Internet should be regulated by the same rules that were created for Depression-Era monopoly telephone enterprises. Instead of maintaining the classification of Internet services as 21st Century information services, they will now be re-classified as 20th Century telecommunications services.
Putting heavy regulatory burdens on companies that want to innovate and invest in the continued growth of the Internet will not bring faster service.
For more than two decades previous FCC chairmen and commissioners have agreed with Congress that the Internet should be subject to the lightest of regulation. We had never seen a phenomenon like it before. In 1993, only 1 percent of the world’s two-way communications flowed through the Internet. It hit 51 percent by 2000 and 97 percent by 2007. Trying to picture the growth in Internet traffic boggles the mind. Cisco predicts that by next year global IP traffic will reach 1 billion gigabytes per month. By 2018, it will “equal the traffic generated by 5.5 billion people simultaneously watching the fourth season of HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ via video-on-demand, Cisco said.
In other words, Internet services will need to grow enormously. There isn’t time for regulatory filings and reviews.
The simple truth is that heavy regulation isn’t needed. Sixty-five companies offer Internet service in New Mexico. Others are just waiting for the opportunity to enter the market. Any Internet service provider that doesn’t provide what customers want at a competitive price will find itself out of business shortly. Competition is a much better regulator than a government agency.
But now we have a problem – a minefield of regulations that won’t make the Internet faster and won’t encourage innovation, economic growth and the creation of new jobs (except for staff necessary to keep up with red tape). Today, early 20th Century regulations won’t solve any 21st Century issues.
We need Congress to step into this situation and put Internet growth back on track. Congress can pass legislation that will ensure net neutrality – an open Internet that treats all data equally. Legislation can undo the harm of 1930s-era regulations while meeting the goals of President Obama, Sen. Udall and others that the Internet remains open. This is the solution that will lead to faster Internet service and innovation for New Mexico and the nation.