Net Neutrality Tipping Point

There has been rampant speculation about how the FCC will implement its open internet principals given the drubbing it received in the Federal district court as a result of the Comcast throttling case. The ruling punctured the notion that the FCC might be able to regulate ISPs based on its existing authority in order to foster network neutrality.

In the wake of the ruling, discussion has moved towards whether ISPs could be re-classified from a type of service the FCC doesn’t have direct power to regulate to a different type of service that it does. Chairman Genachowski seemed on the verge of just punting, letting any efforts for a non-discriminatory network go. As Matthew Lasar explains at Ars Technica, Genachowski had already ruled out reclassification as being overly burdensome.

Art Brodsky at Public Knowledge has news of a development that may change Genachowski’s mind.

What changed was a little letter that went over to the Commission from Rep. Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Commerce Committee and Jay Rockefeller, chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee.

The letter urges the FCC to consider all options, including reclassification though they advise that particular option should be pursued with a “light regulatory touch”. Hopefully this will encourage Genachowski to put common carriage back on the table.

Given the largely unchecked and borderline anti-competitive activities by the carriers, I am tempted to say reclassification at this point should be executed with prejudice. The reality is we still don’t have an empirically based framework for maintaining neutrality so the least regulation that works will still be the best strategy. At least until we start getting some solid data as feedback.

2 Replies to “Net Neutrality Tipping Point”

  1. What I mean is that none of the measurement projects undertaken has yielded a solid report that makes sense of whether and where discrimination may be taking place in the network. ISPs aren’t volunteering information on their management practices, understandably so, and the FCC hasn’t been able to compel them.

    I’ve always been of the view that we need to measure extensively and regulate lightly. I think the risk of unintended consequences is too great to press regulation too quickly.

    At a minimum, if the FCC at least partially re-classifies broadband providers as Title II, common carriers, they should be able to get the data we’ve been missing to see exactly where rules need to be applied to yield the best effect with minimal pressure.

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