Wednesday, February 19, 2014

FCC Takes Another Stab at Net Neutrality

The CEO of Comcast is worried that net neutrality
might yet live for another day. He was so getting
ready to make NBC cheap and Netflix expensive.
(Because Comcast has such big, beautiful pipes!)
The idea that the Internet should be neutral -- no picking sides -- is inherent in all that is good and righteous about the Internet. Well, that's not exactly true, depending on your perspective. If you're black, you might hate that there are an abundance of white supremacy groups on the Web; if you're a prude, you might think that there's too much porn out there; if you're a Republican, you might not like that there are many fact-checkers.

But then, you'd probably say that about the Bill of Rights, too. But the thing is, whenever money and power get to dominate the discourse, the Bill of Rights is sort of fucked. What we've got here, though, is a great big equalizer. Case in point: I'm nobody per se, but I've got a website and you can't take it away or slow down my broadband pipes. So, score one for the Bill of Rights.

We got pretty close to losing on net neutrality just recently when the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington told the FCC that they kinda sorta screwed themselves by accident:
U.S. Circuit Judge David Tatel, writing for a three-judge panel, said that while the FCC has the power to regulate Verizon and other broadband companies, it chose the wrong legal framework for its open-Internet regulations.
“Given that the commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the commission from nonetheless regulating them as such,” Tatel wrote.
What the FCC did was similar to what would happen if the FDA classified tobacco as candy, then tried to regulate it as a drug. The courts would likely say, umm, you can't do that.

So, the FCC is going to regulate the Internet providers not as utilities but as competitors in the communications space. The courts say regulating competition so that it remain healthy is okay. And this is what the FCC is going to now do. Yay.

Why should be care? Well, the glee expressed in this Forbes magazine article in response to the Court takedown of the FCC in the Verizon case shows why we should be very, very wary:
It’s a good thing that net neutrality, which is not neutral in any sense, be dead and buried. New business are emerging as infrastructure and content firms increasingly overlap, invading each others’ turf. Compulsory “neutrality” makes perpetual enemies out of enterprises that should both compete and cooperate to expand the wonders of ever faster broadband to more and more customers.
Net neutrality is yet another example of economic regulation that flies in the face of every proper tenet of wealth creation and expansion of consumer welfare.
Really, Forbes, really?! Here's a quick translation:
If we have a totally free market for the Internet, rich people will end up competing until most of the value of the Internet will end up in the hands of the 1% or the .1% where it should be.
 If we get wealth creation the way we at Forbes like it, consumer welfare will be expanded, as in consumers of the Internet will need welfare to pay for it because, well, competition! And you lost! Hahahaha!!
We don't like you, lizard brains of Forbes. Serve your Wall Street toadies if you like, but we're rooting for the FCC to get it right this time. Because -- seriously this time -- because freedom.

Verizon has big pipes. We could dominate cellphone Internet traffic. Competition!

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