Splitting The Baby In Half: Net Neutrality And The FCC

Yesterday's FCC decision on Net Neutrality has everyone up in arms on both sides of the battle. Did they split the baby in half or sell out?

Republicans are furious over the decision. Kay Bailey Hutchison took to the Senate floor for 30 minutes or so yesterday railing about how the FCC had overstepped their authority and robbed Congress of theirs. On the other side, NN activists are equally angry over what they view as extremely weak regulatory solutions to the much larger problem of keeping the Internet open and accessible to all. Dan Gillmor predicts the end of the Internet as innovation incubator, and sees it becoming much more like cable TV. I fear he's right.

Ars Technica has a great analysis of why everyone hates it. On the Republican side of things, it's simply that there was any effort at all to regulate the Internet, because we all know backbone providers want nothing more than to provide access to everyone at a low price with no discrimination among users or sites, right? Not so much. This graphic tells the tale.

On the other hand, the regulations they passed have different, less restrictive rules for wireless than wired, and are still hardly enforceable. They allow for paid prioritization, so that each ISP can throttle or charge extra for access to sites like YouTube and Netflix.

Even the Future of Music Coalition, which represents artists, lamented the fact that net neutrality "seemingly falls short of offering full protections."

They don't share Baker's default view of huge ISPs, which dominate the US landscape for wireline broadband, as cuddly companies who would like nothing better than to innovate and invest. And they're deeply disappointed that wireless companies are largely excluded from discrimination rules.

Yeah, that wireless loophole is a pretty big one. And it's a real thorn in the side of pro-Net Neutrality advocates. Interesting that it was Android's ubiquity and so-called openness which drove it. Carriers have made a point of taking that "open system" and locking it down tight with their own bloatware and services, so I'm at a loss to understand the logic of loosening wireless regulations as a result. So, by the way, is TechCrunch's MJ Siegler, who wonders why on earth an operating system would have any impact on a Net Neutrality decision.

Except wait. What the hell does an open operating system have anything to do with network access? Nilay Patel wonders this. John Gruber wonders this. Everyone should wonder this. It really does almost read as if they just copied what Google and Verizon laid out and forgot to remove the self-promotion.

Meanwhile, we still have Comcast's acquisition of NBCU to worry about, as Level 3 Communications takes that to the next level by pressuring the FCC to look at the merger in light of their Net Neutrality rules.

After the NBC Universal acquisition, Comcast’s incentive to discriminate is increased, as those providers now also compete against Comcast’s affiliated Hulu and NBC content,” the Level 3 submission stated. Furthermore, even if online video is viewed as a separate market from cable TV, the deal would give Comcast more reason to play a gatekeeper role.

So I guess we could say that the FCC split the baby and named one half Google and the other half Verizon?


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