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from I, Cringely.
Last week the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia shot holes in the U.S. Federal Communications Commission’s version of net neutrality saying the Commission was wrong not in trying to regulate Internet Service Providers but in trying to regulate them as Common Carriers, that is as telephone utilities. The FCC can’t have it both ways, said the Court, and so the Feds get to try all over again. Or will they? I think events are moving so quickly that by the time this particular argument is worked out all the players will have changed and the whole argument may be moot.
If you read the court’s near-unanimous decision they leave the Commission with two choices: 1) declare ISPs to be Title 2 Common Carriers (phone companies) or; 2) find different language to achieve net neutrality goals within a Title 1 regulatory structure (information services), which might be hard to do.
Under Title 2, voice service is considered a basic consumer right and not to be messed with. That’s how net neutrality proponents would like to see Internet service, too. Instead it is currently classified under Title 1 as an information service such as SMS texting. Your phone company doesn’t have to even offer SMS, nor do they currently have to offer Internet service. See the distinction?
Some pundits are saying the answer is to switch Internet service from Title 1 to Title 2 regulation. This is not going to happen. Yes, the Court says that’s the way to do it, but in the real world of U.S. politics and government it won’t happen.
The time for it to have happened was when the current rules were made circa 2001. Back then an arbitrary decision was made to throw Internet service into Title 1 and I simply don’t recall much debate. The guy who made that decision was Michael Powell, then FCC chairman. Michael Powell (son of Colin Powell and not my favorite Mike Powell — owner of the world long jump record) is now president of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which is a trade association representing cable and telephone companies.
Michael Powell — the guy who put Internet service into Title 1 in the first place — says that his organization will do whatever it takes to keep the FCC from shifting Internet service to Title 2. That means lobbying and political donations but it could also mean going to …read more