Said FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski on May 6th, "The [Comcast] opinion therefore creates a serious problem that must be solved so that the Commission can implement important, commonsense broadband policies..."
I'll say. It's a problem, alright. Yet the chutzpah of the ensuing NOI process - in particular, the FCC asking whether its Net Neutrality workaround to reclassify the transmission element of broadband as a Title II service is worth doing / can be done - doesn't make it any better.
FCC Seeks to Regulate the Internet...Because It Can
As I touched on last night, I can't say as I was surprised by today's announcement by the FCC to move toward full-blown Internet regulation. Voting along party lines, the three Democratic FCC Commissioners expressed their wholehearted belief that their regulation of the Internet - not de facto marketplace regulation - was the only way to protect consumers and Americans.
The Comcast v. FCC decision should have rebooted the Commission's discredited Net Neutrality ambitions. Yet instead, the FCC appears moving closer toward questionable new rules, using specious authority to get there. Such an exercise in regulatory hubris is truly confounding, especially in light of the facts and a clear consensus that the Internet must remain free from stultifying regulation.
Make no bones about it, the FCC's NOI today will work to regulate the Internet, and poorly at that. It takes a yellowed, dog-eared page from a 19th Century industrial policy playbook, and seeks to graft that on to the rapidly evolving Internet. Ultimately, it will prove offensive to American consumers, as well as those innovating at the core and edge of America's broadband networks.
No Such Thing As Regulatory Predictability When It's Built on an Illusion of Authority
Tomorrow at the FCC's open meeting, it is expected that the Commission will release an NOI that will seek to implement Chairman Genachowski's controversial "Third Way." Ostensibly, his plan will try to chart a reasonable balance to promote an open Internet, while at the same time keeping it free from regulation. To arrive there, the Commission will likely propose to shear away the underlying transmission component of broadband telecommunications services from ISP / information services, and impose only a "handful" (like a dash of salt, I guess) of common carrier regulations on the former to keep the Internet open for applications, services, content and devices (as if it is not now already).
We do not know what's in the NOI, nor the process toward a rule or ruling. That said, it probably doesn't matter. Call me skeptical, but you don't need to be a mind reader or have a well connected lobbyist to understand that the fix is in. Not letting the facts get in the way of the situation, the Internet, through this NOI, is going to be regulated.
Just the other day, leaders from the House and Senate said they planned on updating the Communications Act. Maybe they've finally started listening to us - we proposed doing this back in 2005, with PFF's Digital Age Communications Act (DACA). Or, perhaps the FCC's so-called "Third Way" doesn't look like the "no-brainer" that the agency spun in its press releases. Well, whatever their intentions may be, it certainly couldn't arrive at a better time.
The framing is all important, of course. Art Brodsky of Public Knowledge (ostensibly one of the groups "writing" the next Act) says Americans shouldn't worry about the FCC's "Third Way." In his view - "The government is not taking over the Internet. What the government is doing is engaging in traditional consumer protection, traditional regulation of a telecommunications service that will get people to the Internet." PK seems happy with this model - whether done at the FCC, or at Congress' hands.
Hmmm...Getting people to the Internet? Traditional, simple stuff. Sort of like strolling to the store, or peddling to the park. Or, like in childhood, making a call from tin cans and string - which is what'll result if PK and their ilk have their way.
Thoughts on Democratic Proposal to Update Communications Act
I was very pleased to hear this announcement today from leading Senate and House Democrats regarding a much-needed update of our nation's communications laws:
Today, Senator John D. (Jay) Rockefeller IV, Chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, the Chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce, Senator John F. Kerry, the Chairman of the Senate Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet, and Rep. Rick Boucher, the Chairman of the House Subcommittee on Communications, Technology, and the Internet announced they will start a process to develop proposals to update the Communications Act. As the first step, they will invite stakeholders to participate in a series of bipartisan, issue-focused meetings beginning in June. A list of topics for discussion and details about this process will be forthcoming.
Anyway, down below I have included the video from that event as well as a better description of the DACA model for those interested in details about how that model of Communications Act reform would work. I think DACA holds great promise going forward since it represents a moderate, non-partisan approach to reforming communications policy for the better. I pulled this summary from the paper that Mike Wendy and I recently penned:
In "The F.C.C. and the Internet" (editorial, April 19), you ignore two important facts to arrive at your sweeping conclusion that the Federal Communications Commission must regulate the Internet to ensure its health and growth.
Both programs run 10 weeks and offer stipends. The Koch Program (which I participated in) is specifically geared towards those interested in free market ideas, and includes an excellent retreat, ongoing series of lectures, and group research project. As a "Koch-head" myself (class of 2000), I can attest to the quality of the program and the value of the alumni network. The Google program is in its third year but will, I'm sure, develop a valuable alumni network of its own.
Of course, we could always use extra help, so if you're interested in an internship during the school year or over the summer, don't hesitate to let us know by emailing us at mail <at> pff <dot> org. We may not necessarily be able to pay you but, hey, no one ever went into the think tank world to get rich!