To call the Internet a marvel of modern technology would be a woeful understatement; it has touched nearly every aspect of daily life. In fact, a recent study found half of Americans couldn’t go a single day without their smartphones.
Only 15 percent of adults don’t use the Internet or email, and more than ever, social, business and political interaction is happening online rather than on paper or face-to-face.
The digital space has transformed what was once the material of science fiction into real-world realities.
So why limit the Internet’s potential?
Today, most Americans enjoy nearly instantaneous access to online information and services via broadband connections. Yet, few consider the infrastructure beyond the screen that makes such modern conveniences function. The infrastructure that enables such interaction is truly a testament to engineering and manufacturing design, enabling the Internet to be all things to all people. No engine of change has ever delivered such innovation so quickly.
Investment in broadband infrastructure enables the Internet to reach the far corners of our country and deliver services like high definition medical imaging, real-time video conferencing, and other modern tools that consumers use daily. Over the past 18 years, the technology and telecommunications industry has invested more than $1.2 trillion in building and deploying broadband networks to provide most Americans with access to the web.
This investment has spurred jobs and innovation right here in New Jersey. I own and operate a technological design and manufacturing company that makes it possible for the Internet to deliver high bandwidth applications, such as streaming video content. We rely on investment and deployment of next generation networks to fuel our business.
The Internet was in its infancy in 1996 when lawmakers updated the Telecommunications Act, the laws that govern this emerging phenomenon. The legislation stemmed from the previous version of the Act, first passed through Congress in 1934. Yet, both laws were designed around old monopoly phone systems and fail to account for the increasing demand for the high-tech resources delivered over broadband. Eighteen years later, this law is as antiquated as dial-up technology.
Unfortunately, some advocates in Washington want to apply these same Depression-era regulations to our vibrant Internet economy by reclassifying the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act. Such a move would freeze the Internet we have today and impede future innovation.
Fortunately, there is an effort underway in Congress to modernize into the 21st Century the communications laws that govern this dynamic and competitive market. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has launched a multi-year effort to collect input while designing a law that represents current technology and is flexible enough to adapt to future innovations. Additionally, the Senate has expressed interest in modernizing the Communications Act, a sign of bicameral support for a major legislative initiative.
A close look at the communication policy debates in Washington shows a reoccurring theme – communications law is fundamentally obsolete. Whether it is the continuous debate over network neutrality, freeing up more spectrum for wireless use, or fights over online privacy protections, all are symptoms of a larger problem, and the solution is to modernize our communications laws.
Companies like mine provide the technologies for our networks to deliver the Internet we all enjoy today and have a real interest in ensuring that communications laws adequately reflect the technological times we live in. Here in New Jersey, Congressman Frank Pallone holds a powerful seat on the committee that is taking the lead on modernizing our communications laws. As a business owner and technology manufacturer in New Jersey, I hope Congressman Pallone can work with his colleagues on this important issue and ensure that New Jersey companies like mine have the ability to operate and innovate under laws that adequately reflect the technological times we live in today.
Dr. Simin Cai is the founder, president and CEO of Go!Foton Group.