New Legislation May Open The Door For FCC Regulatory Power Over Internet Content

from the not-a-good-thing dept

We're all for making content better accessible for the disabled -- but we ought to be careful when it comes to mandating it and potentially opening up internet content to the regulatory control of the FCC. A new bit of legislation being introduced by Rep. Ed Markey would (among other things) give the FCC regulatory power to mandate that internet video providers provide captions and a "video description" for the disabled. Basically, it would require "closed captioning" services for "major" video providers. On the face of it, this sounds well-meaning, but it's troublesome to suddenly give the FCC any sort of regulatory say over internet videos. The FCC's mandate is supposed to be over scarce spectrum -- which is (or is supposed to be) managed as a public good. It's not supposed to have regulatory power over much beyond that -- though, obviously, things have changed over the years.

Giving regulatory power over internet video, even for a seemingly "good cause," opens up all sorts of questions -- both legal and technical. Most worrisome, though, is conceptually, that this would open the door to making internet content open to government regulation. While there have been many attempts to regulate the internet over the years, for the most part, the government has seen fit to keep its hands out of regulating most internet content. Opening up internet video to certain requirements is a troublesome "nose in the tent" sort of situation. Rep. Markey, of course, is also well known for his proposed net neutrality bill -- and it's for the very same reason that I'm skeptical of legislating net neutrality. I'm a huge supporter of the concept of net neutrality -- and I believe strongly in exposing any provider who breaks neutrality. But once you open the door to the government regulating the internet, they're only going to regulate more and more and more. And, if you don't think that process won't be abused by entrenched interests, you haven't been paying attention to our legal system lately. Good intentioned laws for the internet will almost certainly have bad unintended consequences.
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Filed Under: closed captioning, disability, ed markey, internet video, regulation


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  1. identicon
    chalkboy, 11 Jun 2008 @ 7:32pm

    Dumb but possible

    Legislation won't work but it might make for a booming business for me. We just released an automatic video transcription service so one guys problems is.... (link above to see details)

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