The majority of the FCC’s commissioners are likely to vote for a series of regulations, crafted by chairman Julius Genachowski, to address the issue of the neutrality of the internet, commonly known as net neutrality.
Critics from both the left and the right have lambasted the new regulations. On the Republicans side, conservative FCC commissioner Robert McDowell claims that this is another example of government overreach into a business realm. He sees nothing wrong with the internet as it is.
On the other hand, Democrats and public interests and free speech groups are up in arms in saying that this set of regulations paves the way for big business to tilt the internet in their favor.
Here is a description of the forthcoming policy, as summarized by Wired.com:
Both wireless and fixed broadband service providers will have to explain how they manage congestion on their networks. Cable and DSL companies will have to let you use the applications, online services and devices that you want to. Meanwhile, wireless companies will be prohibited from blocking websites and internet telephony services like Skype. Cable and DSL providers would be barred from “unreasonably” discriminating against various online services.
It is unclear what will constitute the FCC’s standard of “unreasonableness.” But if the FCC determines such “unreasonable” discrimination is occurring, the FCC says it has the power to enjoin — or stop — the behavior, as well as issue fines or even seize assets, an FCC official said.
Everyone, conservatives included, believes that the language used in the policy is far too vague for it to be effective in regulating the internet.
In the end, it is quite clear who the winners will be. The communications media conglomerate, composed primarily of Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T, will be given the first glimpse of what it would be like to control the internet by allowing more bandwidth to certain websites while prohibiting their customers from using their competitor’s applications.
Sadly, though, this story is not getting the attention it deserves. It barely made the news headlines, if at all.
The news media all too often provides too much coverage of political stories that often are not too informative (or constructive), other times they run stories that are just plain pointless. All too often, certain programs would devote entire segments discussing what the Tea Party has been up to, what it means for some of them to be elected into congress, or the ‘Birthers’ latest antics, or how the Republicans plan to oppose every single policy proposed by the Obama administration.
Lost in the mix are important stories such as the collapse of net neutrality.
Obviously I’m not saying that the news channels completely missed / ignored this story; in fact I’m sure cable news shows have run a segment here and there to discuss the issue of net neutrality. But this story was worthy of being in the headlines and the featured sections. The hosts should have made it their priorities to let all of their viewers know about this issue.
The internet epitomizes freedom of speech; it is also representative of the notion that the advances of (information) technology is struggling to conform to centuries-old constitutional laws, and vice versa. Freedom of speech is one of the most fundamental values of a democracy. Without it, people become powerless. The internet is perhaps the most powerful extension of the realm of freedom of speech since the television, and we need to keep it as such.
I have friends who texts more than they call people, others who are beginning to utilize the new video calling features on their smart phones.
Imagine if they can’t do this with the software / app / company of their choosing, and are forced to pay more for inferior service.
For more info, you can check out:
And article from the New York Times here
The Wire.com article here
A comment from Timothy Karr on the Huffington Post here
A comment from Al Franken, Senator from Minnesota, here