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Don't Be Too Quick To Cheer On FCC On Its Net Neutrality Response

from the double-standards dept

With most reports assuming that the FCC will vote in favor of some sort of wrist slap on Comcast for its traffic shaping this week, one of the things that doesn't make sense is the folks who are cheering about this move who also fought like dogs to keep the FCC from implementing the broadcast flag. As you may recall, a few years back, the entertainment industry pushed for the FCC to mandate a broadcast flag that would allow it to define rules for whether or not its content could be recorded by DVRs. The courts rightfully determined that such a mandate was outside the scope of the FCC's authority. However, an FCC ruling on net neutrality is basically covering identical grounds, yet many of the groups cheering this decision are the same who fought against the Broadcast Flag, claiming the FCC had no mandate.

Now, to be clear, the concept of network neutrality is definitely a good thing -- but having the FCC suddenly put itself in charge of regulating such things (even if it's regulating it in a reasonable manner) is really dangerous. Those who are celebrating this decision should be worried about what it means. Specifically, they're going to have little leg to stand on when the FCC next tries to mandate something outside of its authority (which is almost certainly going to happen in the near future).

That doesn't mean that the apocalyptic predictions from the industry will come true, however. Represented by a positively ridiculous and blatantly silly editorial in the Washington Post by FCC commissioner Robert McDowell, it's pure rubbish to suggest that this ruling by the FCC means the internet might "grind to a halt" is totally unsubstantiated sensationalism that has been shown time and time and time again to be false. There isn't a serious bandwidth crunch -- and whatever potential crunch may be coming could be dealt with by some modest improvements in infrastructure, not necessarily by breaking network neutrality, which is more of an attempt to double charge for bandwidth than anything else.

However, supporters of net neutrality may be making a big mistake in cheering on the FCC as it expands its authority in this area. The FCC has never been about protecting consumer rights, and granting them this authority (which the law appears not to do) opens the door to a lot more trouble down the road.


Reader Comments (rss)

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  1.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Jul 29th, 2008 @ 8:35am

    The misnomer of consumer rights

    Don't you mean CIVIL RIGHTS? or even Human rights?

    We're talking about privacy and freedom of speech here, not whether manufacturers should be obliged to detail the calorific content of their soda pop so that consumers have a better clue as to what the heck they're consuming.

    Citizens do not consume communication, they speak publicly, or privately, and they listen.

     

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  2.  
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    Abdul, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 8:45am

    Rethinking Net Neutrality violations!!

    I wholejeartedly support your analysis whic is very similar to what is written in this post. Those who think the FCC will be doing us a favor should have to rethink their position: Net Neutrality Violations: Worth a Closer Look(http://www.internetevolution.com/author.asp?section_id=539&doc_id=160123&F_src=flftwo)

     

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  3.  
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    TriZz, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 9:00am

    Re: The misnomer of consumer rights

    Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1)
    con·sum·er [kuhn-soo-mer]
    –noun

    1. a person or thing that consumes.
    2. Economics. a person or organization that uses a commodity or service.
    3. Ecology. an organism, usually an animal, that feeds on plants or other animals.

    I believe Mike was discussing the "economic" definition of consumer.

     

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  4.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Jul 29th, 2008 @ 9:30am

    Re: Re: The misnomer of consumer rights

    I reckon those blasted revisionists have been mucking around with the dictionary database again.

    They've already adjusted the date for the earliest use of the word 'pirate' as the unauthorised reproduction of copyrighted works by a couple of centuries.

    Anyway, thank you for bringing this definition to my attention, however, I remain insistent that 'network neutrality' is not primarily about regulating ISPs in their provision of networking services to 'consumers' thereof, but about protecting citizens' rights to privacy and free speech, i.e. without invasion or interference.

    The Internet is not an entertainment delivery mechanism.

     

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  5.  
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    Paul, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 10:01am

    Re: Re: Re: The misnomer of consumer rights

    I remain insistent that 'network neutrality' is not primarily about regulating ISPs in their provision of networking services to 'consumers' thereof, but about protecting citizens' rights to privacy and free speech, i.e. without invasion or interference.

    Sadly, the 1st Amendment is not applicable here. The 1st Amendment only protects against goverment interference with speech. Comcast and other ISP's are in fact private entities. That said, the government has led us to this unfortunate space where ISP pretty much have local monopolies, and so there is a need to protect the rights of consumers against these monsters they have created.

     

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  6.  
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    Crosbie Fitch (profile), Jul 29th, 2008 @ 10:11am

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The misnomer of consumer rights

    The constitution is applicable. It means that the government may NOT regulate ISPs or the Internet if by doing so it interferes with citizens' speech or violates their privacy - even if such regulation is apparently to assure some half-baked notion of 'neutrality'.

    What the government can do is to rectify local monopolies, and thus enable the market to rectify any commercial bias in communications.

    Unfortunately, state, publishers, and broadcasters are all interested in regulation/control of communications, so 'net neutrality' regulation is the Trojan horse that will achieve it.

    Oh well... :-/

     

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  7.  
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    Jason, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 11:35am

    Whew...

    "Don't Be Too Quick To Cheer On FCC On Its Net Neutrality Response"

    ...good thing you stopped me.

     

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  8.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 1:29pm

    Re: Re: Re: Re: The misnomer of consumer rights

    The 1st Amendment only protects against goverment interference with speech. Comcast and other ISP's are in fact private entities. That said, the government has led us to this unfortunate space where ISP pretty much have local monopolies...
    I would argue that by receiving government remuneration in the form of protected monopolies that the cable companies have been in the employ of the government. And so, as paid agents of the government the 1st Amendment applies to their actions.

     

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  9.  
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    Q, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 1:43pm

    Telco Neutrality

    Mike,
    Do you think that the FCC also oversteps its authority in enforcing telco neutrality? Should the telcos be exempt from neutrality rules? I'm looking forward to your reply.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10.  
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    cp24, Jul 29th, 2008 @ 2:57pm

    Misreading of Opinion Piece?

    I may not have not understood this correctly, but you wrote the following:
    it's pure rubbish to suggest that this ruling by the FCC means the internet might "grind to a halt" is totally unsubstantiated sensationalism that has been shown time and time and time again to be false
    From what I read, it was giving the FCC the power to regulate network management that might bring the internet to a grinding halt. He wasn't talking about limited bandwidth arguments that you linked to.

     

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  11.  
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    Zeeol, Jul 30th, 2008 @ 3:07pm

    I have no idea after i read this.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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