The Federal Communications Commission's impending vote to create new rules regulating Internet data-flow on Thursday has lawmakers and business-owners picking sides. CEOs of the Internet's biggest companies (Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon and E-Bay, to name a few) favor the "net neutral" regulation, which would prevent broadband service providers from charging more to access certain kinds of content, such as web videos. That position, currently favored by the FCC, has also been supported by the White House. On the other hand, broadband and phone giants like Comcast and AT&T are worried that the new rules will prohibit them from offering fast, high-priced premium data services. Their push to impede new regulations has recently received the backing of a sizable bipartisan group in Congress. Bloggers are similarly split down the middle (echoing previous coverage by The Atlantic Wire):
- Let It Flow Art Brodsky, a member of the digital public-interest group Public Knowledge, makes the case for regulating the Internet in favor of openness at the Huffington Post. He reduces the debate to one fundamental question: "Who is more worthy of our elected representatives advocacy? Big telecom companies which want to exercise control over something they never controlled? Or the millions of people who are used to an Internet in which they, not big media, make decisions about how to go about their online lives, whether investing millions of dollars, uploading a video or just listening to music." Unfortunately, he says, the telecom companies have the upper hand right now because they can afford to spend more on lobbying.
- Don't Let Telecom Fool You, warns Jason Roenbaum at Firedoglake. He agrees that the telecom case against government regulation seems convincing at first: "After all, the Internet has grown up just fine without these regulations, why would we need them now?" But he goes on to point out that neutrality has in fact been the norm, and that advocates simply want to protect it from greedy, increasingly over-reaching telecom companies. He pleads on behalf of the internet today: "It is because of net neutrality that we have blogs like this one. It’s because of net neutrality that we have Google, YouTube, Facebook, and all the other sites we take for granted every day. And there’s nothing wrong with the FCC making net neutrality a formal rule so this innovation can continue into the future."
AGAINST GOVERNMENT OVERREACH
- Forced Neutrality Isn't Free Market At the Precursor Blog, broadband company activist Scott Cleland thinks that it would be a huge mistake for the government to force the internet to stay open. As he writes: "The practical effect of openly un-neutral FCC rules is to create a new un-level playing field that will only get more un-level the more the Government stands on one-side of the scales picking de facto winners and losers via regulation." He believes that net-neutrality will end-up costing consumers more, as they will be the ones to pay for the increased amounts of broadband used up by an unconstrained Google and its Silicon Valley-ilk. Ultimately, he says the FCC will leverage openness to achieve unprecedented government control of the internet: "With only three votes of unelected FCC commissioners, the FCC’s proposed regulations would practically make the private networks that make up the Internet, public, and practically re-purpose the Federal Communications Commission into the 'Federal Internet Opportunity Commission.'"
- Neutrality Advocates Are Deluded Tech Republican blogger Carrie Sarver says that it's easy to be initially swayed by tech-blogs' near-unanimous support of net-neutrality, but once you take time to analyze the debate, the case doesn't hold up. According to her, data flow issues are best settled by broadband networks, not by decree: "Instead of encouraging innovation from these [network] engineers and people who know most about these things 'net neutrality' gives that power over to the government," she explains. Similar to Cleland, she is pessimistic about an open-internet's ability to support competition. "This whole thing could lead to the government being one big service provider while smaller independent ones are crowded out. Even if that is not in the immediate future, why take a step in that direction if it’s not necessary?"