In an unexpected shift, the federal government will seek to impose rules on Internet providers like Comcast and AT&T. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants providers to "treat all traffic equally, and not to slow or block access to websites." The agency will derive its regulatory authority under old rules created for land line phone networks. The so-called "third way" has already angered net neutrality advocates who say this doesn't go far enough and free market advocates who say it stifles innovation. Others think it's the perfect solution. Commentary after the jump:
- The FCC's Third Way Victor Godinez at The Dallas News breaks it down: "Basically, the FCC is claiming that, based on previous Supreme Court decisions, the FCC has the power to basically combine Title I and Title II into some amorphous third category which allows the FCC to regulate some aspects while not forcing broadband providers to comply with all aspects of Title II."
- Lawyers Are Going to Have Field Day, says Larry Downes, a fellow at Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society: "Any effort to 'reclassify' broadband without Congressional action would be met with vigorous legal challenges every step of the way. Nothing in the Communications Act gives the FCC authority to decide on its own what is and what is not a telecommunications service. Congress already made that decision. That broadband Internet is an unregulated 'information service' is already long-settled law, law made concrete by the FCC itself."
- This Is Good Policy, writes Rob Pegoraro at The Washington Post: "It will restore to the FCC a clear right to investigate and punish Internet providers if they're tempted to abuse their market power. That alone should count as a victory for customers: I'd rather see competition keep companies honest, but when the market fails, having the government serve as a referee is usually the next-best option."
Will Stifle Investment, argues Adam Thierer at the Technology
Liberation Front: "If the agency rolls back the regulatory clock in this
fashion, it will be a huge step backwards for innovation, investment,
and quality in this field. How is it that everyone suddenly has
collective amnesia about the past that Title II gave us? Doesn’t anyone
remember getting their fingers pinched in black rotary dial phones of
the Title II regulatory era? I do. Here’s what else that regulatory
era gave us: Stagnant markets. Limited choice. Lackluster innovation.
What else would you expect when you have price controls, rate-of-return
proceedings, state PUC meddling, protected markets, etc."
- Nonsense: Telecom Will
Still Invest, argues venture capitalist Fred Wilson: "If you look at history,
you can see that telcos have invested very heavily in their networks
while under the threat of net neutrality regulation or even in instances
when they were under direct net neutrality regulation. The argument is
specious and their actions have show that."