For 20 years, the Internet has proven the adage that you’ll never get ahead by taking something easy and making it difficult. This is something the young Asian Pacific Americans with whom we work and the millions of young entrepreneurs around the globe know all too well.
However, this truism does not only apply to the marketplaces enabled by the Internet, it also applies to the rules governing the Internet itself. If Federal rules protecting our online privacy and freedoms don’t reflect today’s reality, then advances are slowed and the new ideas of our young people, and of everyone, get shelved. In the end, we all lose.
This is unfortunately the situation we’re in right now, and why Congress must step in with a Federal law protecting our Internet access and privacy rights. Current Federal rules covering the Internet, especially online privacy, are complicated, outdated, and nearly impossible for anyone other than an Internet lawyer to understand.
This situation is not new. For the past decade, Federal policies in these areas have shifted back and forth nearly a dozen times. It’s been like watching a predictably bad Hollywood movie series: Federal agencies issue new rules, courts strike them down, and the process begins again.
Congress has the power to resolve this, and Congress must use its power. To protect our ability to do what we want online, Congress should confirm in a straightforward way: no blocking, no censoring, no throttling, no discrimination.
Congress should guarantee neutrality, openness, transparency, and privacy protection for all of us. The open Internet proposal passed during the Obama Administration’s first term in 2010 is an excellent template since it protected many of these rights in a way that still encouraged an easy, consumer-friendly experience.
Regarding privacy, Congress’ mission is equally straightforward: craft a single, easily understood set of privacy protections that apply to everything we do online. The problem with recent privacy rules has been that protections differed depending on what we did. When we logged on, we had one set of protections—but those protections could vary depending on our homepage. Websites had different rules than ad trackers and Internet service providers (ISPs). But what if our website provides our Internet service or deploys the ad tracker? Or our ISP owns the website?
This has been the classic case of Washington regulators taking an important concept—protecting our online privacy—and making the rules far too complicated for us to understand.
Anyone doubting the benefits from a new set of Federal Internet rules that guarantee our rights as Internet users should remember this: regardless of what we do, where we live, what we look like, or where we come from, the Internet is crucial to all we do. It’s long past time for Congress to modernize the rules protecting our online rights.