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  • Will (and Can) the FCC Regulate the Internet?

    Declaring access to the Internet to be like “running water or the light bulb,” FCC chairman Julius Genachowski declared today that it should be regulated. Specifically, he announced that the Commission will be voting next month on a proposal to impose so-called “net neutrality” regulation on Internet service providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast.

    Specifically, the plan is to codify four Bush-era “principles” for Internet firms, while adding two more. The first four principles state that consumers are “entitled” to run applications, connect to devices, and access content of their choice, as well as enjoy a choice of providers (all subject to reasonable network management practices). Genachowski would add to these a ban on discriminating among any content or applications, and a mandate that service providers publicly reveal their network management practices.

    While perhaps innocous-sounding, these rules could play havoc with effort to manage congestion on the Internet. Last year, for example, Comcast’s efforts to deter “bandwidth hogs” on peer-to-peer networks from slowing their download rates was declared illegal by the FCC.

    There has been some question, however, as to the legality of the Comcast decision, since the four existing principles had never formally codified. The steps announced today would make them clearly enforceable. And the two additional principles would tighten the leash on network managers even more — making it even more difficult to manage constantly growing network traffic.

    The net result — a slower and more congested Internet, and more frustration for users. Even worse, investment in expanding the Internet will be chilled, as FCC control of network management makes investment less inviting. The amounts at stake aren’t trivial, with tens of billions invested each year in Internet expansion.

    But the story doesn’t end there. Genachowski would also make clear that these rules would apply not just to landline Internet connections, but to wireless carriers as well. So much for justifications of net neutrality rules based on a shortage of marketplace competition. Few industries are as competitive as wireless — with no fewer than 10 carriers with four million or more subscribers. Still, regulation, not consumer choice, will dictate how the networks are run.

    The proposal seems sure to garner support from a majority of the FCC’s three members. But it is equally sure to be appealed in court, where the FCC’s abysmal record in defending its decisions (it is overturned more than any other regulatory agency) provides some hope. And not without reason — there’s a real question as to whether the agency has the right to regulate the Internet at all. The Commission has explicit legal authority to regulate only “telecommunications” services. And, a few years ago, the agency ruled that broadband services were not telecommunications services.

    Only two things are clear: the issue of neutrality regulation is far from settled, and lawyers’ services will be at a premium as the debate proceeds.

    Posted in Ongoing Priorities [slideshow_deploy]

    28 Responses to Will (and Can) the FCC Regulate the Internet?

    1. Roger D says:

      I have just one question "WHY"

      *More Freedom = less government*

      more government = Less Freedom

      Over the years I have had some confusion over the word liberal. Having always believed that the word liberal, liberty and freedom were much the same.

      So I looked it up, Liberalism emphasizes individual rights, equality of opportunity, freedom of thought and speech, limitations on the power of governments, the rule of law, an individual’s right to private property and a transparent system of government.

      The Democratic Party today in the USA are Socialist/Communist they are not Liberal’s there for they should cease calling themselves Liberals, because individual rights (freedom) are not the what they stand for.

    2. Bobbie Jay says:

      If the government knew it's role and respected the dignity and honor to uphold the oath taken of the constitution this would never be considered. This government shows a definite disrespect of the constitution, freedom, liberty, human rights without bias. They lack the ability to see all as equal as they continue to show the government named entitled (excluding seniors, military) they are inferior to the freedoms, liberties and personal responsibilities of this country.

      The fcc will try but if they have any dignity at all, they will let freedom go.

    3. Ron Derven says:

      Great news! Let's keep the skies, roads, beaches and spectrums open to all!



    4. Chris, Macomb, IL says:

      I sure hope they can and I hope it extends right down to the OS with any general purpose OS (read: open to developer OS)

      There is no real price competition across the top 4 wireless providers. $30/mo for unlimited mobile Internet sounds great…but I pay $30/mo for 2 phones…someday 3, 4, or 5 as my children get phones which will almost certainly have Internet…and then the restrictions kick in. It's slow, unreliable, it isn't allowed to do voip, video (if and only if it is timeshifting or live TV … unless that TV is on youtube, orb, mlb.com, etc)

      Who are these companies to decide what I can do with the data service I am paying for? I use about 250MB/month and am REQUIRED to have it with the phone I have. I don't care if it is "unlimited" if I can't use it like I would like…which may include using competing services.

      Turn about is fair play here too…AT&T can sell VOIP services to Sprint customers and vice versa. Don't like it…tough. Have to change your pricing model? Fine.

      It's about time we have some competition based on real Apples to Apples service. Price, bandwidth, and network management practices. A service providing the Internet should be providing the Internet. Nothing more and nothing less.

      The companies are free to manage their bandwidth to see that a bandwidth hog is not overly draining capacity at peek times. This will prevent the congestion problems that you reference. It's just that they can no longer say a VOIP user will be slower than web traffic. That's just not fair to the users.

      It breaks the Internet and they know it.

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    12. jim sardis,ms says:

      It is obvious,obama and his radicals are determined to do as the other dictator run countries do. The liberal media here has already been controlled. To takeover the country,they are going to do what Chavez is doing and that is to control everything and everybody.

    13. Steve, Washington, D says:

      The American Consumer Institute agrees with these conconcerns. In its announcement they write:

      "Today, the FCC Chairman announced his intention to embark on what could be a risky path toward regulating the Internet and wireless services in order to fix a theoretical problem – one that is rarely observed in the market and, if it were ever to occur, one that could easily be addressed with the Commission’s current powers, on a case-by-case basis. With every consumer welfare study on record demonstrating that onerous network regulations would raise consumer prices and reduce network investments, harsh Internet regulations could be very counterproductive to achieving the goals of Congress, thereby reducing network deployment and Internet use. Rules that discourage Internet and wireless infrastructure investment would also reduce innovation at the edge, which means that if the commission is concerned about encouraging innovation at the edge, it should first adopt policies that encourage network investment. For this reason, it is important for the Chairman to be mindful that network investment is the key encouraging consumer benefits."

      for the entire piece go to

      http://www.theamericanconsumer.org/2009/09/21/the… or visit http://www.theamericanconsumer.org

    14. Greg Hagen says:

      …maybe this effort will be another casualty of the coming implosion of the Obama agenda, then what's left of it (or the FCC) will necessarially be one of the many targets of the constitutionally-based remediation of the U.S. Government that must be mandated by a Conservative leadership next… The ability for our Government to go on these tangents needs to be addressed soon.

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    19. Curtis Neeley, Fayet says:

      I have plead the FCC as nonfeasant since communications by wire has developed from the telegraph into the Internet. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals has my interlocutory Appellant Brief already.

      5:09-cv-05151 => 10-2255

    20. wmarms usa says:

      the gov looks at this internet as an untapped tax resource and of course a way to monitor/control free speech eventually outside of fox network very few people watch the declineing networks cbs radio is buying up local am stations in all markets and slowly liberalizing content as consevative content contracts expire i wonder where those funds come from as cbs radio has had declineing listenership in the liberal market areas for years

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    28. curtisneeley says:

      Complaint is revised. http://www.curtisneeley.com/5_12-05074/5_12-5074….
      docket is online and was recommended dismissed but the objection is filed.
      The FCC, Google Inc, Microsoft Corporation and the USA are defendants.
      Will probably be dismissed and moderate, common-sense regulation will wait ten years to one generation to finally occur.

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