FCC and Obama think 1930s regulation best way to govern a modern internet
The FCC has adopted new rules to ensure net neutrality, in the process giving itself broad, sweeping powers to regulate the internet.
In a 3-2 vote along party lines, the Democrat-controlled FCC adopted rules favored by President Barack Obama.
On the surface of the debate are principles of net neutrality and whether broadband providers should be allowed to adopt practices such as throttling data or setting up “fast lanes” for content providers who can afford to pay. Net neutrality advocates say all data should be treated equally, otherwise innovation in services could be stifled.
But at issue is whether net neutrality can be achieved via free market competition, or whether the government needs to step in with a strong regulatory regime.
The Obama administration has decided on the latter. Using laws originally crafted in the 1930s to regulate telecommunications, the FCC has placed broadband access providers under a regulatory regime known as Title 2, treating the internet as a public utility.
This gives the FCC the legal authority to ban data throttling or the establishment of internet fast lanes.
But Title 2 can also be used to force broadband providers into other actions it deems to be in the public good, such as providing universal broadband access in remote areas and levying new taxes on consumers to pay for it.
While the FCC today does not plan to use these powers under Title 2, critics feel it’s only a matter of time.
Net neutrality advocates want an internet that is free and unfettered. Ironically, they have invited new government regulation that could lead to the opposite.
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