Post Classifieds

FCC has big plans to create an internet oligarchy

By Stephen Friedland
On May 1, 2014

A little less than a month ago, people were considering the Heartbleed bug, a personal information-revealing software defect that ABC says affected 66 percent of internet websites in the past two years, to be the bane of the end of the internet. This is not so. As of today, the internet - at least in the United States - faces a bigger nightmare, one with visions of significant potential to be financially-dominated by telecommunications giants like Comcast and Verizon under certain proposals highlighted by the Federal Communications Commission Chairman, Tom Wheeler.
Wheeler, a former lobbyist for telecommunications companies in Washington, has said on his blog that he desires to maintain "a broadly available, fast and robust Internet as a platform for economic growth, innovation, competition, free expression and broadband investment and deployment." He then goes on to say that he intends to hold internet service providers to the FCC's newly established "commercially reasonable" standard, one that would prevent big telecommunications companies from "[harming] consumers...competition...[and] providing exclusive, prioritized service to an affiliate." That does, in fact, sound commercially reasonable.
The thing is, though, Wheeler and the FCC cannot enforce any of these standards unless these ISPs are classified as "common carriers," or as dictionary.com defines it, in federal regulatory and other legal usage "a carrier offering its services at published rates to all persons for interstate transportation." A common carrier is considered as such when it is under the jurisdiction of a public regulator, in this case, the FCC.
Back in January, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit established incredible leeway for TelCo giants when it struck down the FCC as plaintiff in its legal bout with Verizon, declaring that since "the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such." So, in essence, whatever the FCC implements is useless unless it is willing to declare that the companies are common carriers.
But that would take lots of hard work, apparently. Wheeler has insisted that he would be willing to invoke Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which would allow the FCC to put licensing restrictions on broadband services. It doesn't matter; it's still invalid under the Verizon vs. FCC verdict, unless they're classified as common carriers. Nonetheless, he remains confident that "unlike with Title II, [the FCC] can use the court's roadmap to implement Open Internet regulation now rather than endure additional years of litigation and delay." No, that's exactly the opposite of what the court's roadmap dictated.
What appears to be a big, maybe even bigger, source of apprehension to Wheeler is dealing with the prospect of going to court with companies like Comcast and AT&T and possibly losing their support. For a former lobbyist within the industry he has potential to be legally at odds with, he understands the ramifications of biting the hand which has fed him for so long.
The ramifications of not regulating ISPs, however, are far more dire. Under this proposal's suggestion, they are encouraged to create Internet "fast lanes" for bigger companies like Netflix, where they could charge extra money for faster Internet traffic. Naturally, prices would go up as these companies accommodate to the new changes instated.
While this wouldn't necessarily slow down the traffic to smaller Internet companies, it will undoubtedly make it difficult for these companies to develop significantly financially -precisely the opposite of what Wheeler indicated on his blog - because of the burden ISPs will be able to impose on them. Fledgling internet companies will not see the degree of success which Netflix and Amazon have had under the despotic freedom of Big TelCo.
And as smaller businesses have the possibility of stagnating or dwindling on the internet, where does the money go to? To Comcast, to Verizon, to AT&T: businesses who have done things to the extent of acquiring Time-Warner Cable for $45 billion, businesses whose chances of only further widening the financial disparity under less restrictions get higher.
 


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