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2010-09-09 digital edition

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2010-09-09 / General Stories

Survey Says: Texans Agree

When something’s working, most Texans would say “don’t mess with it.” New research about Texans’ opinions about the Internet and the government are in line with this thinking. According to a survey released by Texans for Economic Progress, fully 70 percent of Texans feel strongly that the government should maintain a “hands off” approach to any regulation of the Internet.

Why? Like most things, if something’s working, it’s best to leave it alone. Internet service providers have invested billions of dollars in private capital to deploy high-speed equipment and networks with without heavyhanded government mandates. Now, with broadband access expanding in the Lone Star State, Texans can build and maintain an international business from their homes - or even while on go. This reality was unimaginable just a few years ago in some parts of the state.

Greater access to broadband gives Texans access to life-saving technologies that put them in direct contact with their doctors, from the comforts of their homes. High speed connections level the playing field for students in rural Texas who have access to the same high-quality online content as their contemporaries in Dallas. Connectivity attracts tourists to restaurants and hotels across the state whose broadband connections keep their patrons connected. The list of opportunities made possible by broadband goes on and on.

High-speed connections have come a long way - and reached further into our state than ever before. The Connected Texas project led by Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples reported that more than 95 percent of Texas households have access to broadband Internet service. Commissioner Staples acknowledged this great progress and noted that there’s still work to be done and connections to be made. At the same time, a new survey by the Pew Research Center shows that the number of people signing up for broadband service is slowing down. Clearly, more than ever we need policies that encourage continued investment in high-speed Internet infrastructure and innovation to enhance the online experience so that all Texans can and want to get online with high-speed connections.

So it’s concerning to learn about efforts afoot in Washington, DC that would derail private investment in the Internet and slow down innovation. First, the Federal Communications Commission floated an idea to regulate the way Internet service providers manage their networks. Then the FCC embraced an idea to reclassify the Internet altogether so that rules from 1934 would apply to the 21st century Internet. To the casual observer, none of this makes sense since investment in broadband is booming. Why inject the government now?

In what some are describing as justification for greater government regulation of the Internet, the FCC recently released a study that claims that fully half of Texas counties are “unserved” by broadband providers. That’s a far cry from what the Connected Texas project determined. While there may be middle ground between the studies, the FCC’s fixation on regulating the Internet is really disconcerting. And the level of discrepancy in their findings makes us wonder if the FCC is out of touch with what’s really happening in Texas communities. If so, that’s all the more reason the government shouldn’t meddle with the Internet.

Texas is a state that has grown because of we encourage innovation and competition. The feds should take note; Texas has the fastest growing economy and has created more new jobs than any other state in the nation because of our business environment. Now Washington wants to get in the way and block our economic progress. We hope common sense prevails in DC and the higher ups keep their paws off and let the Internet keep working for Texans.

Robert Howden is the Executive Director of Texans for Economic Progress, an Austin-based, non-profit advocacy group that monitors the competitive process in key sectors of the Texas economy. TEP keeps its finger on the pulse of Texans and works closely with elected officials and regulators at the local, state, and federal level to further educate them on issues impacting competition in communications. TEP also works to generate public awareness of how Texans’ lives and finances are impacted by decisions made on these issues by our policy-makers.

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