FCC Tries to Fix Open Internet
Tom Wheeler, a venture capitalist, lobbyists, and cable industry expert was appointed to lead the FCC by president Obama in November of 2013. Viewers of last week with John Oliver are already familiar with Tom and enjoyed a laugh at his expense. Cuyler claimed that he would never have dreamt that he would be fodder for late-night comedians. The problem is one year into his term as head of the FCC he still can't explain his plan to save the Internet.
His first proposal was to reinstate a set of net neutrality rules that it Artie been struck down a federal court a year ago. The rules attempted to prevent Internet service providers from offering preferential treatment to any Internet traffic thus ensuring entrepreneurs and consumers would have equal access to the Internet as Fortune 500 companies. The proposal, rightly so, was criticized by congressional leaders, activists, consumers, and more. Sen. Al Franken, a Democrat from Minnesota,, chastise the FCC claiming it the fixes were far too weak and would create the Internet fast lanes that it sought to prevent. These "fast lanes" would give Internet service providers like Verizon or Comcast power to charge for priority access to companies such as Amazon, Z, or Netflix. This doesn't sound like a bad deal until you realize that these companies can easily afford the fast Lane, but small businesses in turn will be left in the slow lane trying to catch up.
Democrats tend to support a stronger hand by reclassifying broadband Internet altogether. If classified as a title II utility under the 1934 telecommunications act broadband Internet services could be regulated in the same fashion as telephone networks are today. While this may seem a bit draconian, it may also be the only option on the table the work.
All of this started on January 14, 2014. The US Court of Appeals sided with Verizon communications in a lawsuit that challenged the FCC's 2010 open Internet rules. The court overturn those rules, and although it may have been right to do so, it also left the Internet exposed to potential future abuses from Internet service providers. Cuyler says it's the SEC's job to fix that and also states that if this creates controversy and debate all the better.
Wheeler also says that he has been trying to do what is right in creating an open Internet, at least to the extent that the Internet be as open as possible. Ultimately the question is what can the agency do to protect the Internet while not restricting it in a fashion that would prevent future investment and financial opportunities for the United States.
Although the answer has eluded the FCC the debate is not over. And it cannot end until an answer is found because the Internet can be a powerful tool for small businesses, or it can stifle creativity and prevent growth in the same way. This would help no one except the very powerful state powerful.