In a Rare Moment, Consensus Reached in Net Neutrality Debate

In a Rare Moment, Consensus Reached in Net Neutrality Debate
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The FCC should at least get credit for the one thing they accomplished with today's Net Neutrality vote: they brought both sides of a critical issue together to declare a collective "WTF," most appropriate considering the Commission's policy on wireless.

Prepared statement after prepared statement, the Commission did nothing to move the discussion of Net Neutrality forward. The ruling today will not preserve the open Net; instead, the Commission's half-hearted attempt to maintain relevance will lead to court rulings and other disagreement that will controvert the intentions of Net Neutrality advocates. The unintended consequences of today's vote are ripe for discussion.

Sure, the FCC did exactly what people expect a rulemaking body to do: promulgate regulations. Instead of setting forth rules with any force behind them, the Commission voted 3-2 to take a weak stance that was highly predictable. What the ruling actually does may ultimately be found to be unimportant, but the fallout it could unintentionally cause could be quite damaging.

The ruling could jeopardize the eventual determination of treatment of wired versus wireless Internet, whether by the FCC or Congress. To those of us with the ability to read and write this post, it may not immediately make a difference. Yet, since the future of computing is most certainly mobile, we should be concerned. Additionally, we should be concerned for those who merely enjoy mobile access, and not of the smartphone variety. While mobile penetration is in the 80th percentile within the United States, there are many people that rely solely on those devices for their information access. Many of these people otherwise lack access to computer use, nevertheless broadband.

This first concern is intimately tied to the second concern, which is where the FCC drew its authority from for its new rules. It should not be a surprise since Title II authority has been discussed as the new source of statutory authority since the Comcast ruling in the spring, but these weak regulations were the wrong time to make the play on Title II authority, which is where the FCC has drawn its telephone jurisdiction for the last seventy years.

It was bad policy. It was worse politics. It was another one of those instances that we are having all too often these days in the policy arena, where no one wins, no real compromise is made and progress is retarded for all of those with a stake in the issue.


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