In an unexpected shift, the federal
government will seek to impose rules on Internet providers like Comcast and
AT&T. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants providers to "treat all
traffic equally, and not to slow or block access to websites." The
agency will derive its regulatory authority under old rules created for
land line phone networks. The so-called "third way" has already angered
net neutrality advocates who say this doesn't go far enough and free
market advocates who say it stifles innovation. Others think it's the perfect solution. Commentary after the jump:
The FCC's Third Way Victor Godinez at The Dallas News
breaks it down: "Basically, the FCC is claiming that, based on previous
Supreme Court decisions, the FCC has the power to basically combine
Title I and Title II into some amorphous third category which allows the
FCC to regulate some aspects while not forcing broadband providers to
comply with all aspects of Title II."
Lawyers Are Going to
Have Field Day, says Larry Downes, a fellow at Stanford
Law School Center for Internet & Society: "Any effort to
'reclassify' broadband without Congressional action would be met with
vigorous legal challenges every step of the way. Nothing in the
Communications Act gives the FCC authority to decide on its own what is
and what is not a telecommunications service. Congress already made that
decision. That broadband Internet is an unregulated 'information
service' is already long-settled law, law made concrete by the FCC
This Is Good Policy, writes Rob Pegoraro at The Washington Post:
"It will restore to the FCC a clear right to investigate and punish
Internet providers if they're tempted to abuse their market power. That
alone should count as a victory for customers: I'd rather see
competition keep companies honest, but when the market fails, having the
government serve as a referee is usually the next-best option."
Will Stifle Investment, argues Adam Thierer at the Technology
Liberation Front: "If the agency rolls back the regulatory clock in this
fashion, it will be a huge step backwards for innovation, investment,
and quality in this field. How is it that everyone suddenly has
collective amnesia about the past that Title II gave us? Doesn’t anyone
remember getting their fingers pinched in black rotary dial phones of
the Title II regulatory era? I do. Here’s what else that regulatory
era gave us: Stagnant markets. Limited choice. Lackluster innovation.
What else would you expect when you have price controls, rate-of-return
proceedings, state PUC meddling, protected markets, etc."
Nonsense: Telecom Will
Still Invest, argues venture capitalist Fred Wilson: "If you look at history,
you can see that telcos have invested very heavily in their networks
while under the threat of net neutrality regulation or even in instances
when they were under direct net neutrality regulation. The argument is
specious and their actions have show that."
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