America would not be the country it is were it not for virtually ubiquitous broadband Internet service. During my travels throughout Latin America and the Caribbean, I am always reminded that we shouldn't take such service for granted here at home. Although I admit that I do at times.
It's not just the fast access we get, whether wired or wireless. It also is the multitude of innovations that broadband has brought -- from more than a million smartphone apps to remote medical monitoring, online education and business growth through worldwide Internet marketing.
A major reason that broadband has thrived in this country is that the federal government has used a light touch when it comes to regulations on the Internet. Companies have been free to invest millions -- even billions -- of private dollars into the infrastructure. Entrepreneurs do what they do best: innovate. Market forces -- real customers -- reward providers that offer the best service. When a provider steps out of line (which rarely happens when millions of dollars are at stake), the market is quick to remind it who is calling the shots.
As part of a larger proposal, the Federal Communications Commission is seeking comments on reclassifying broadband from a Title I information service to a Title II communications service. This regulation would effectively dial back the clock -- or the calendar -- by imposing regulations designed for the monopoly phone era of the 1930s.
Under these proposed regulations, providers would have to ask permission from the government for virtually every little change they might make in services. And given past history, that approval could take months or longer. That might have worked OK in the days of Ma Bell, when phones were black and long-distance calls were 50 cents a minute or more. But in today's world of Internet time, regulators simply would not be able to keep up with the pace of innovation.
The rationale some give that this change would prevent broadband providers from offering service at different speeds is simply wrong. Even under Title II regulation phone companies could offer different deals to different classes of customers.
Regulations serve a purpose, usually to substitute for competition when a market isn't open. But Americans have a variety of methods to access high-speed broadband Internet service, from phone companies and cable companies, satellite TV providers. Even Google is building high-speed networks to compete in communities around the country.
Broadband service can be especially important to minority communities such as those served by the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce of San Francisco. While Hispanics take the lead in mobile broadband use, Hispanic families lag behind in broadband service to the home, according to recent research from the Pew Research Project.
If the FCC decides to impose heavy-handed Title II regulations on broadband service providers, these companies would be less likely to invest the money needed to continue to expand networks and bring them to every community.
Competitive breakthroughs would not quickly emerge in the market, but rather queue up awaiting regulatory approval. Game-changing innovations would be slow to appear.
FCC considerations don't always make interesting news items or gain the attention of members of our communities. But this is one time when we need to let the FCC and our elected leaders know that the Internet's information services are much different than simple communications such as phone calls. Taking a giant step backward toward heavy regulation is simply a bad idea.
Carlos Solórzano-Cuadra is CEO of the Hispanic Chambers of Commerce of San Francisco.