Electronic Design
FCC Power Grip Sets Up Net Neutrality, Ends Internet Freedom

FCC Power Grip Sets Up Net Neutrality, Ends Internet Freedom

The Federal Communications Commission’s meeting on December 21 implemented new net neutrality rules that will make all of our lives more complex and costly—just as I thought, and just as many of you must have really wanted. Amazing.

Do you actually believe that the Internet will be more open and free now? The FCC is regulating something that does not need regulating. But FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who referred to his agency as the “cop on the beat,” was delighted to see the commissioners’ 3 to 2 vote for net neutrality—along party lines, of course.

Let’s see. Since the Obama administration came into office, it has imposed regulations on health care, the auto industry, the financial industry, and the housing industry, and now this. It’s almost as if it’s looking for things that aren’t regulated yet. I guess it believes the job of government is to regulate stuff—­everything eventually.

In the past, regulation was often a response to abuses, monopolistic tendencies, and other problems. That kind of regulation was needed, sometimes. In the case of the Internet, it is not needed. There is sufficient competition, openness, and variety to allow the market to decide how to run things. That is what our capitalist society is all about. It looks like the FCC is anticipating lots of forthcoming problems and wants to get ahead of them.

I haven’t read the new rules, and, in fact, not all of them have been published yet. But you can go to the FCC’s Web site and read the releases and commissioner comments (www.fcc.gov). Government as usual. In a nutshell, it’s putting restrictions on how the AT&Ts, Verizons, and Comcasts of the world manage data through their networks.

No Internet service provider may block or slow any Web traffic. Internet service providers (ISPs) will also have to make their network management policies public. The “good” news is that the ISPs may “reasonably” manage their networks and charge consumers based on levels of Internet usage.

So, yes, I am disappointed and unhappy. But under the current administration, it is what I expected. ISPs will now have to yield to the new rules and limit what they can do to manage their networks. This will add restrictions to the fastest changing technology ever, and those restrictions will go out of date in a short time. Will the new rules limit innovation and stall investment? It remains to be seen. Hopefully it will not, but we all know about untended consequences.

While I am saddened by more control over things by the government, and all the complexity, red tape, time, and financial burdens that go with that, there is still a chance that Congress could get involved. There is still some hope that Congress will overturn these rules once the new Republican House gets in place after the first of the year. It has the power to do so, but will it? Otherwise, look for some serious litigation in the courts. Don’t you just hate it when we have to do business by litigation rather than by engineering and creativity?

My condolences to the ISPs. Good luck and best wishes with the new rules. The FCC hopes you’re enjoying the holiday season.

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