Why the Open Internet Matters to Manufacturers

At first glance, President Obama’s call for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to regulate the open Internet may not seem like a manufacturing issue. It is.

Today’s manufacturers are innovators. They integrate technology and the Internet in every aspect of their businesses. All types of technological innovations, including sophisticated modeling software, integrated machine-to-machine technology on the shop floor and connected vehicles, have helped power a period of unprecedented growth in the manufacturing sector. Manufacturers essentially have become technology companies. They have leveraged the Internet to compete, deploy new technologies, connect with their workforce and their customers, reduce costs, cut waste, enhance the environment and create safer, more reliable products.

Open Internet: What's at Stake for Manufacturers

At Issue: President Obama's proposal and the FCC's intent to regulate the Internet, using an 80-year-old law enacted during the era of rotary telephones.

At Stake: Future investment in our nation's communications infrastructure--which has helped fuel the manufacturing innovation engine and transform our more than $2 trillion industry.  

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The federal government’s market-based, pro-competition approach to the Internet in the 1990s sparked a wave of investment and growth not seen anywhere else in the world. America’s wireless and wired broadband infrastructure is the envy of the world because it is constantly improved, enhanced and made more efficient by new investment and innovation. Reversing course and applying an antiquated command-and control regulatory framework to the Internet makes no sense. Worse, President Obama’s proposal will stifle future investment and innovation while yielding no commensurate benefits for consumers. It also complicates manufacturers’ ability to make the timely and necessary capital investment decisions they need.

In a recent survey by the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) and Building America’s Future, manufacturers gave positive marks to the U.S. telecommunications infrastructure; however, only 34.9 percent reported the network that moves information and data is improving at a pace to keep up with job creators’ needs. The continued uncertainty brought on by the specter of possible regulatory action further delays manufacturers from using and creating the best technologies in the world.

Manufacturing has always been important to America’s growth. It has brought our country to a position of greatness. It has provided a path to economic stability for millions of its citizens. Its output has resulted in higher standards of living and better relations with people and countries from across the world. It propels us toward new and higher levels of technical innovation.

And when it comes to manufacturing and the Internet, Washington needs to step aside and let the innovators lead—just as we always have.

Led by the NAM, more than 100 member companies and associations voiced their opposition to efforts that would unnecessarily regulate the open Internet with the laws from the last century and hinder manufacturers’ ability to innovate and broaden economic growth.

This article originally appeared in the February 2015 issue of Member Focus.