Tag: net neutrality regulation

Internet Regulation: How About This Ad Hominem?

The New York Times starts its commentary on proposed Internet regulations with a clever ad hominem argument: “The Republican attack on the Federal Communications Commission’s proposal to classify broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service sounded a lot like the G.O.P. talking points on health care reform.”

The GOP are being like themselves. Accordingly, Times readers should think their viewpoint is yucky. It’s not the most substantive argument you’ll come across today.

There are good reasons not to encumber the Internet with regulations designed for the telephone system. Here are four: The Internet is not like the telephone system, and the FCC  doesn’t have the institutional ability to manage a changing, competitive system of networks. Extending “universal service” telephone taxes to the Internet will drive down adoption and frustrate universal service goals. The FCC is subject to capture by the very interests from which the Times thinks regulation would “protect.” The Internet’s large cadre of technologists and active consumers will do a better job than the FCC of protecting consumers’ interests. 

But ad hominem is more fun. So let’s ask why the New York Times didn’t disclose that, as a content provider, it has a dog in the fight? Net neutrality regulation would act as a subsidy to content providers like the Times, ultimately paid by consumers as higher prices for Internet access.

Larry Downes on Internet “Reclassification”

A few weeks ago, the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit rejected the FCC’s claim of authority to regulate Internet service. That was good news—and it sure didn’t create a crisis. It meant that the FCC would have to get authority from Congress if it wanted to regulate the Internet.

But a little hiccup in that plan quickly emerged: Congress won’t let the FCC regulate the Internet. Bills to do that have been floating around Capitol Hill for years, and they’ve never gotten traction.

So the proponents of government-controlled Internet access services have worked up an end-run around Congress: They want the FCC to try to reclassify Internet access from an unregulated “information service” to a “telecommunications service,” subject to common carrier regulation, like the monopoly phone system used to be (… and still is, generations after the monopoly ended).

Well, Larry Downes has been kicking the “reclassification” idea up and down the field. To relax, he’s been jumping up and down on ”reclassification.” Recently, Downes had a dream in which he took out a gun and shot “reclassification.” When he awoke, he did not apologize.

I recommend reading his post on the TechLiberationFront blog.

Consumers in the Driver’s Seat—-Oh, the Humanity!

Yesterday the D.C. Circuit ruled that Congress hadn’t given the Federal Communications Commission power to regulate the Internet and the FCC couldn’t bootstrap that power from other authority. It was a rare but welcome affirmation that the rule of law might actually pertain in the regulatory area.

But the Open Internet Coalition put out a release containing threat exaggeration to make Dick Cheney blush:

“Today’s DC Circuit decision … creates a dangerous situation, one where the health and openness of broadband Internet is being held hostage by the behavior of the major telco and cable providers.”

That’s right. It’s a hostage-taking when consumers and businesses—and not government—hammer out the terms and conditions of Internet access. Inferentially, the organization representing Google, Facebook, eBay, and Twitter believes that Internet users are too stupid and supine to choose the Internet service they want.

What these content companies are really after, of course, is government support in their tug-of-war with the companies that transport Internet content. It’s hard to know which produces the value of the Internet and which should gain the lion’s share of the rewards. Let the market—not lobbying—decide what reward content and transport deserve for their roles in the Internet ecosystem.

As I said of the Open Internet Coalition’s membership on a saltier, but still relentlessly charming, day: “[T]hese companies are losing their way. The leadership of these companies should fire their government relations staffs, disband their contrived advocacy organization, and get back to innovating and competing.”