Nothing warms the souls of technology enthusiasts like a bunch of dark suits in Washington D.C. marching in to take control of the Internet. As the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) continues its tone-deaf march toward a stratified and more heavily regulated Internet, the furor is building.
Today FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler advanced his proposal for new broadband rules today, which were approved for public release by the Commission by a 3-2 vote. Although the plan is still not public — and certainly not final — the FCC’s vote to consider the proposal had the immediate effect of turning up vocal opposition to any policy does not uphold basic net neutrality, or the equal treatment of all Internet traffic and applications on broadband networks.
Wheeler says that the plan will uphold basic tenants of net neutrality. But those in the know say it gives the FCC — and service providers — more leeway in creating Internet services with “fast lanes” for prioritized Internet traffic.
Perhaps a bigger issues: The FCC may try to reclassify broadband services as common telecom carrier service. This puts broadband in the category of regular phone calls, which are of course heavily regulated communictions services (eww).
Wheeler’s plan, which has been slowly leaking out for some time, has been drawing widespread protest, as Internet activists, investors, and technology mavens around the world protested the plan.
The Foundry Group, a VC firm based in Boulder, Colo., has been staging a particularly innovative protest in which a fake ad on their Website, said to be sponsored by Comcast and Time Warner Cable, announced that it was slowing down the loading of the site so that it could prioritize other traffic.
The issue of net neutrality and service provider revenue is certainly sticky, as one might sympathize with service providers when they say they un unfair amount of broadband revenue is going to support bandwidth hogging apps such as Netflix, which is the leading traffic broadband generator.
But at what cost? Casting the Internet into the regulatory morass of the FCC to gain a few shekels for Verizon and AT&T seems an especially risky gambit. They are in fact already compensated, as demonstrated by my rising broadband bill. Consumers have the choice get what they want, and pay for it, from a wide variety of Internet sources. Right now the Internet is relatively consumer friendly, and it should stay that way.
The FCC’s steady and surprising crawl toward the agenda of goliath service providers such as AT&T, Verizon, and Time Warner, which are powerful lobbying powers, is frightening. Nobody screws up an industry as fast as a bunch of Washington lobbyists.
But even many in US Congress do not appear to support the FCCs recent direction. It will be interesting to see what happens on May 20, when the FCC must present its plan to Congress.
It’s a pivotal moment. The FCC looks determined to take more firm, regulatory hand in the future of the Internet, whose phenomenal growth stems largely from that fact that it has been the world’s largest, un-regulated communications service. Skype anyone?
More regulation and control, in general, is bad for the Internet. It will slow investment and introduce uncertainty.
You must ask yourself: Do you want more innovation or less? When was the last time getting the FCC involved led to innovation?
Net neutrality backers decide to “occupy” the FCC (ComputerWorld)