Electronicdesign 2913 Xl regulations

Is Net Neutrality Really A Cure For What Ails The Internet?

June 8, 2010
The FCC is in the process of deciding how to implement net neutrality in the Internet.

Thanks to all of you who wrote and commented after my previous column, Chronic Over-Regulation: Get Ready For Net Neutrality.”  Despite my case against net neutrality, most of you overwhelmingly support it. Many of you called me an idiot, a naïve dork, and worse for not supporting more regulation. But a few of you did take the time to explain why you think net neutrality would help. I appreciate your explanations. Anyway, it appears I’m in the minority.

But I still don’t understand why people want more government interference, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) micromanaging, and all the rigmarole that goes with it. A few of you did remind me that not all regulation is bad. I do agree with that, but regulations are good only if they fix definite problems. Net neutrality is an attempt to fix something that isn’t broken. The FCC says it is trying head off trouble. I don’t buy it one bit, and neither do the big cable companies and telecoms.

In the FCC’s most recent effort to achieve net neutrality, Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed bringing Internet service providers (ISPs) under the coverage of Title II of the U.S. common-carrier service regulations, like all other telecom companies, though only a few of the rules would apply. That way, the FCC can have a direct say in what the carriers can and cannot do.

The FCC will discuss what it will do at its forthcoming June 17 meeting. It could decide to do nothing, reclassify broadband under Title II, or just apply some of Title II’s policies, as suggested in Genachowski’s proposal. Hopefully, the FCC will ask for comments. I’m sure the commissioners will get an earful.

All of this controversy has prompted Congress to get involved. Congress could decide to rewrite all of the telecom and broadband rules, which it did back in 1996. Was that set of laws successful? Some yes, some no. Think back to all of the hassle that occurred with DSL on the phone lines and the competitive local exchange carriers (CLECs). Do we want that again?

In any case, getting Congress involved may be the best course of action. I can’t believe I’m saying that, but I suspect that Congressional rules won’t be as one-sided as what the FCC will come up with on its own. The telecom companies also will have the chance to lobby Congress against heavy handed policing. The industry blitz has already begun.

No matter where you stand on this issue, you are going to see some regulation. Let’s hope it’s more balanced than what the FCC has in mind so we don’t screw up a good thing.

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