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.
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Filed Under: broadband, fcc, net neutrality, nuclear option

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  1. icon
    Ima Fish (profile), 7 Apr 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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