December 20 2010
They're Coming For Our Internet
The FCC is scheduled to vote on net neutrality rules this Tuesday. The Washington Post reports that the FCC vote is poised in favor of extending the agency's regulatory reach over broadband:
New rules aimed at prohibiting broadband providers from becoming gatekeepers of Internet traffic now have just enough votes to pass the Federal Communications Commission on Tuesday.
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski now has the three votes needed for approval, despite firm opposition from the two Republicans on the five-member commission. Genachowski's two fellow Democrats said Monday they will vote for the rules, even though they consider them too weak.
The outcome caps a nearly-16-month push by Genachowski to pass "network neutrality" rules and marks a key turning point in a policy dispute that began more than five years ago.
In a past post, I quoted Michael Powell who said:
Net neutrality is really about appropriate scope, depth, and authority of government in that space.
This vote is not only about net neutrality, albeit that would be bad enough already. Tuesday's vote is about the FCC trying to claim jurisdictional authority over internet regulation more broadly. Net neutrality is most likely only the beginning of a litany of government overreach to control other aspects of the internet.
Additionally, the FCC is trying to preemptively respond to the fear that unregulated broadband providers will control the content experiences of consumers by discriminating against certain network protocols. The FCC ought to show convincing evidence that such discrimination is in fact occurring, that it is harming consumers, and that the market is unable to effectively respond to this problem. Even if the FCC were to support its position, it ought to defer to Congress to receive the regulatory authority it desires.
By voting in favor of net neutrality rules, the FCC will circumvent Congress and disregard a recent court ruling. Should the Washington Post's prediction come true, we can only hope that Congress and/or the courts will stop the FCC once again from trying to regulate the internet.