The only thing in the middle of the road are dead skunks and yellow lines
Or so goes the Texas adage.
Today’s 3-2 FCC
vote on rules pertaining to so-called “Net Neutrality
” may once again prove that compromise guarantees only one thing. That nobody’s happy.
The debate, which has been a five year long rollercoaster ride, came to a head in what is being described as “rules of the road” for the Internet. The inherent fuzziness of the provisions, which include such vague concepts such as “transparency,” “network management,” and “unreasonable discrimination” all but guarantee that the matter will ultimately be decided in the courts.
Furthermore, the same rules don’t apply to fixed and mobile networks.
Fair to Middling
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski
made a point of characterizing the rules as “middle of the road” approach—though likely one where no side even feels a little bit ok about it.
“On one end of the spectrum, there are those who say government should do nothing at all, on the other end of the spectrum are those who would adopt a set of detailed and rigid regulations.”
The Chairman said he rejects “both extremes in favor of a strong and sensible framework - one that protects Internet freedom and openness and promotes robust innovation and investment."
A Little Hyperbole Goes a Long Way
Indeed, critics are vocal on both sides, with opponents comparing it to the “government takeover of the Internet,” and Net Neutrality supporters calling it “worse than nothing.”
Outspoken Senator Al Franken calls it the “most important free speech issue of our time,” and surmised
that “ If corporations are allowed to prioritize content on the Internet, or they are allowed to block applications you access on your iPhone, there is nothing to prevent those same corporations from censoring political speech.”
Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell, in a Wall Street Journal
Op/Ed piece said that the new rules will squelch innovation and investment, and reflect more “coercion than consensus or compromise.”
He goes on to say:
“On this winter solstice, we will witness jaw-dropping interventionist chutzpah as the FCC bypasses branches of our government in the dogged pursuit of needless and harmful regulation. The darkest day of the year may end up marking the beginning of a long winter's night for Internet freedom.”
Netting Out Net Neutrality
It’s still not over
It’s not over—not even by a long shot. April’s ruling
by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia challenged the very role of the FCC in regulating broadband. Certainly, this is yet to be scrutinized and debated in Congress, and ultimately in the courts.
Please Have Exact Change
While the rules voted on today preclude service providers from blocking “lawful content,” they apparently do little to discourage the practice of “paid prioritization. ” The rules, set to go into effect in 2011, create a “toll road” of sorts on the metaphorical information superhighway—a road that companies such Google
may be forced to take.
FUD Factor 2.0
Markets don’t like fear, uncertainty and doubt. We all know that. And while Chairman Genachowski suggest that the rules “increase
certainty in the marketplace, and spur investment both at the edge and in the core of our broadband networks”, the result may be just the opposite.
Well, that’s what it smells like anyway.