FCC's Wheeler points to opportunities for small businesses created by open Internet rules

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the agency's net neutrality rules have created more opportunities for small businesses, which will likely stand as a key point in the agency's new report to Congress on the state of entrepreneurs and small businesses.

"One of the biggest challenges I have confronted in my time at the Commission is facing down the false choice between investment and openness," Wheeler said in a blog post. "I believe our Open Internet Order took the right approach, by protecting entrepreneurs and small businesses' free and open access to the Internet, while also forbearing from sections of Title II like rate regulation and unbundling that might reduce network owners' incentives to continue building out their networks and investing in new technologies like 5G."  

In section 257 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, the FCC was asked to pay more attention to small businesses, a sector that Wheeler said "played little or no role in the communications industry during the decades of monopoly local phone service."

But Wheeler argued that the agency's policies toward telecommunications have helped open new opportunities for small businesses. 

"Our digital networks have not just disrupted existing sectors; they have also nurtured the development of entirely new marketplaces," Wheeler said. "The $120 billion 'app economy,' for example, where entrepreneurs are having incredible success marketing their products and services, did not exist ten years ago. The nascent 'Internet of Things' marketplace may grow just as quickly over the next ten years."      

But Wheeler said that the cost of building and operating telecom networks still makes them difficult to extend to all Americans. 

"While the FCC has taken many steps over the years and is still working to promote competition among network service providers, the fact remains that the financial barriers to building these networks are formidable, and most American consumers have few or no choices when it comes to this service," Wheeler said. "Our most recent Broadband Progress Report, for example, found that only 38 percent of Americans have more than one option for fixed advanced telecommunications technology."

In his report, Wheeler also presented a number of proposals geared toward small businesses for Congress' consideration, including preferential tax treatment for small communications businesses, support for the NG 911 transition, and policies like "dig once" that will speed up the deployment of broadband infrastructure to unserved communities.

For more:
- see this FCC blog post

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