Seeing Mark Zuckerberg in a suit and tie is still something I have to get used to, but it’s a small price a billionaire has to pay in order to bend the President’s ear on issues of privacy and surveillance by the National Security Agency. Mr. Zuckerberg’s recent visit, along with other Internet company heads, with Mr. Obama is an example of the impact this still growing industry has on the structure of the nation’s economy and its public policy toward the information superhighway.
And the Internet is definitely growing, contributing to the nation’s economy at a greater rate than other traditional industries. According to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis, information-communications-technology producing industries saw an increase of 7.2% in their contribution to gross national product in 2012. This rate of change reflected a significant increase from the 2011 increase of 4.7% in 2011. Approximately 5.9% of GDP in 2012 is credited to the ICT industry. Of the 2.8% increase in GDP in 2012, .41 percentage points was attributed to ICT.
Between 2006 and 2011, the broadband industry has invested $73 billion in broadband infrastructure deployment and AT&T in 2012 committed to $14 billion a year in broadband investment for three years, while Verizon has reported an average of $16 billion over the last three years.
According to a 2011 study by McKinsey & Company, the U.S. is the largest player in the Internet space accounting for 30% of global Internet revenues and 40% of net income. Citing a study conducted by comScore, The Huffington Post reported that in 2011, Americans spent $256 billion on retail and travel related online purchases.
Last week, Federal Trade Commission chairman Maureen Ohlhausen made the argument for abandoning the silo approach to regulation, an approach that calls for regulators to guess how the future of technology will play out. The Internet has been dodging the regulatory bullet but network neutrality advocates seem to have the entire Internet eco-system in their cross hairs for additional regulation. Given the amount of investment that has been made in the Internet eco-system by broadband providers, can a case for more regulation using a regulatory scheme that may slow down innovation be made by the FCC?
Even pursuant to section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, where the Congress has called on the FCC to promote the deployment of advanced services an argument should not be made for heavy handed regulation. If anything, where section 706 is concerned, deployment without codification of net neutrality principles has been delivering those advanced services because industry has been listening to the consumer.