Tomorrow morning the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will mark the winter solstice by taking an unprecedented step to expand government’s reach into the Internet by attempting to regulate its inner workings. In doing so, the agency will circumvent Congress and disregard a recent court ruling.
How did the FCC get here?
For years, proponents of so-called “net neutrality” have been calling for strong regulation of broadband “on-ramps” to the Internet, like those provided by your local cable or phone companies. Rules are needed, the argument goes, to ensure that the Internet remains open and free, and to discourage broadband providers from thwarting consumer demand. That sounds good if you say it fast.
Nothing is broken that needs fixing, however. The Internet has been open and freedom-enhancing since it was spun off from a government research project in the early 1990s. Its nature as a diffuse and dynamic global network of networks defies top-down authority. Ample laws to protect consumers already exist. Furthermore, the Obama Justice Department and the European Commission both decided this year that net-neutrality regulation was unnecessary and might deter investment in next-generation Internet technology and infrastructure.
Analysts and broadband companies of all sizes have told the FCC that new rules are likely to have the perverse effect of inhibiting capital investment, deterring innovation, raising operating costs, and ultimately increasing consumer prices. Others maintain that the new rules will kill jobs. By moving forward with Internet rules anyway, the FCC is not living up to its promise of being “data driven” in its pursuit of mandates—i.e., listening to the needs of the market. …
On this winter solstice, we will witness jaw-dropping interventionist chutzpah as the FCC bypasses branches of our government in the dogged pursuit of needless and harmful regulation. The darkest day of the year may end up marking the beginning of a long winter’s night for Internet freedom.
Mr. McDowell is a Republican commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission.
Unfortunately the forces of big money and monopolization own the FCC along with most of the rest of our government. Basically we are looking at a rather rapid national decline across a wide spectrum of economic, environmental, and quality of life conditions over the next 20-30 years. … Really other than a major throwing out the bums in Congress and replacing them with liberal populists who won’t shy away from standing up to big business we should probably just learn Chinese.
A proposal establishing rules on net neutrality will be voted on by the Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 21. At issue are pay to play rules giving Internet service providers the power to charge higher prices for more bandwidth. The FCC net neutrality vote seeks a middle ground that prevents outright blocking of content but recognizes the need to manage data-hogging video and peer-to-peer traffic.Currently the FCC has no authority to regulate the Internet. The net neutrality proposal will be used to present Internet regulation legislation to Congress. An explosion in video and P2P traffic, along with the proliferation of smartphones and networked tablet devices, has put a strain on available bandwidth. ISPs such as Comcast and Verizon support a pay-to-play system that allows them to control congestion by charging customers more for a so called “Internet fast lane.” With bandwidth demand exploding, ISP have already started charging content providers and throttling P2P traffic. The content providers say such a two-tiered Internet is unfair and should be illegal.Giant ISPs have already been planning how to exploit the FCC proposal. DailyTech reports that a presentation by suppliers to AT&T and Verizon was leaked outlining a two-tiered Internet. The strategy includes charging mobile data customers extra monthly fees per web page accessed and per MB consumed, plus YouTube, Facebook and Skype access fees. The presentation also recommends that ISPs create their own social network and video sites and offer their customers free access for choosing those instead.
Your life probably depends on keeping the Internet free. You just don’t know it yet.