Net Neutrality Battle Quickly Turns Into Political Food Fight

from the hyperbole-nation dept

Well, well. For a legal ruling that really has no direct impact on the actual case it's about, the decision that the FCC can't punish Comcast for breaking net neutrality sure got people worked up. Suddenly there's talk of the FCC reaching for the so-called "nuclear option." What's that? It would involve reclassifying broadband as a common carrier service. Of course, this would be a reversal for the FCC, which (under the previous administration) pushed hard to reclassify both DSL and cable broadband as information services (not regulated) instead of telco services (regulated).

The whole thing is a bit of a mess -- and, once again, distracts from the larger issues (i.e., the lack of real competition in the space). Now, there's a reasonable argument to be made that both services do, in fact, have common carrier status. The argument is stronger with DSL, which is built on telco infrastructure that, at one point, was built and run through a gov't-granted monopoly. But, with both, you are dealing with public rights of way, which at least give some legitimacy to the idea that they should fall under a category that involves oversight from the FCC. But, having already flipped the switch one way, going back the other way is not going to be as easy. Unlike five years ago, when this issue was mostly ignored by politicians, this time around, everyone's gearing up. And, unfortunately, rather than a debate on the issues (and, oh boy, are there issues), it's shaping up along partisan lines, which isn't good for anyone.

You've got Rep. Joe Barton warning the FCC not to reclassify, while Senator John Kerry is suggesting the FCC should reclassify. Kerry's statement is pretty damn amusing:
"I am not advocating that the FCC reclassify broadband services as a result of this decision, but I absolutely believe they maintain that legal authority and it would be entirely consistent with the history of communications law in our country if they did."
In other words, "I'm not saying reclassifying, but you should reclassify." Meanwhile, across the aisle, Senator Orrin Hatch is already signaling that any attempt by Congress to give the FCC the necessary mandate will be fought hard by the Republicans. Though, his reasoning is specious. While I agree that the FCC's attempt to regulate the internet is outside its mandate, the following statement is pure drivel:
"This is also good news for the future prosperity of the Internet, because there is now an actual incentive to expand capacity, which benefits consumers and our economy alike."
There is nothing about the ruling that gives anyone incentive to expand capacity. In fact, it does the exact opposite. It gives broadband providers the incentive to limit uses instead of expanding capacity. If there were real competition, however, then there would be incentives to expand capacity. Too bad no one seems focused on that at all. Instead, it looks like we'll get another political food fight that won't actually do anything about making sure that we have the broadband we need.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
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    Ima Fish (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 8:59am

    "But, with both, you are dealing with public rights of way..."

    The cable companies use the same right of way the phone companies use when they lay their cables. To me if a corporation gets to run something across private land without compensating the land owner and without the land owner being able to block it, the corporations should give up something. To me that something is common carrier status.

     

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  2.  
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    NUKE intellectual property, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 9:09am

    yup any use of public rights of way

    adn they should be common carrier status, to not do so again grants corporations rights they have that we citizens do not.

    all it is , is greed and its slowly eating away at the nation and sooner or later ( not to sound harsh BUT a LEVY is gonna break nationwide )

    sure internet might not be the straw that broke the usa's back but its another brick in the wall

     

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  3.  
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    Hephaestus (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 9:17am

    "In fact, it does the exact opposite. It gives broadband providers the incentive to limit uses instead of expanding capacity."

    Yes and that limiting will have consumer rights groups going after the service providers and politicians who allow this to go on. It will also be incentive for corporations and communities to go the google high speed route. Which once proven and the best practices documents are available from google and the communities that implement will only accelerate competition.

    Here some more "thinking outside the box" ... To circumvent local monopoly implemented laws it is possible in most states to get a ballot measure-proposition that removes the current local monopoly protections (no more digging up the streets, no more cables on the telephone poles, etc). This could be used by local citizens to implement a google type high speed system.

     

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  4.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 10:08am

    I think that there is going to have to be some reclassification going on soon. Where it occurs, will probably, as usual, depend on who pays off whom. If I recall correctly, cell phone providers are considered common carriers under current classifications, but only for the voice portions, which are currently (3G) carried on a different channel than data.

    When the cell phone carriers transition to their 4G networks, where everything is treated as data, including the voice portions, the FCC will be left in a situation where it has two similar networks (cell and local ISPs) providing the same services (IP accesss to internet, VoIP, etc..) but one is classified as common carrier while another is not. My guess is some form of reclassificatoin will occur to rectify that situation, but it could be either to reclassify cell phones as a non-common carrier, or internet as common carrier.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 10:21am

    "This is also good news for the future prosperity of the Internet, because there is now an actual incentive to expand capacity, which benefits consumers and our economy alike."
    "There is nothing about the ruling that gives anyone incentive to expand capacity."

    Whoa there Mike you assume he means capacity on the internet, but he means capacity to fill wallets, his and his owners.

     

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  6.  
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    chris (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 10:33am

    legislation is a necessary evil

    competition would be better than legislation, but too much has been invested in keeping competition out, so we have no choice but to go the legislation route.

    competition is a foregone conclusion. there isn't going to be any, so there *has* to be legislation.

     

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  7.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 11:58am

    Common Carrier's aren't liable

    One reason Hatch and others may not want the common carrier label placed on the providers is that it puts a kabash on their plans to deputize the ISPs as copyright cops.

     

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    Greevar (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 11:59am

    What we need is a 100% open public network that any provider can use to sell access to consumers and they should be required to allow all traffic without prejudice.

     

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  9.  
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    Vake, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 12:47pm

    John Kerry

    John Kerry is against reclassifying before he was for it? Sounds familiar....

     

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  10.  
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    Bacon Gun, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 12:55pm

    Silly Solutions

    I propose millions (if not billions) of privately funded wireless routers that have as much of a signal boost as the FCC allows, and make a new network. Host your own sites. Run your own IRC server.

    I hope there could possibly be a rational solution.

     

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  11.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 3:05pm

    limiting use would create demand for use which would create a market for other players. why not let the comcasts of the world choke themselves?

     

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    BearGriz72 (profile), Apr 7th, 2010 @ 4:48pm

    Re: (Google Type High Speed System)

    Welcome to Google TiSP :)

     

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

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    Anonymous Coward, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 6:45pm

    And here i thought that..

    ..every one pulled their own fiber and had individual rights to it. Comcast pulled every last inch of that cable so they can do with it what ever they please. Screw the regulators, if they want to screw over whole areas, the government shouldn't stop them. In fact they should make it easier. It not like both ends are paying for service or anything like that. Just poor Comcast footing the whole bill while the rest of the webs.

    /sarcasm

     

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  14.  
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    kpc, Apr 7th, 2010 @ 8:34pm

    Re: John Kerry

    Except that is not what his statement meant. It was simply saying that reclassifying would be consistent with the history, but he was not at this point calling for it. To me, it sounds like he wants to hear or learn more before committing.

    As to your comment, not very clever - and it was never true. The source was a funding bill where Kerry wanted the cost paid for by rolling back some of Bush tax cuts (Bush said he would veto a bill with this condition), then against the Republican bill that didn't pay for it. (Two different bills, 2 different votes. Most Republicans, it should be noted voted "no", "yes".)

     

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