Saturday, May 10, 2014

Time for the FCC to hit the reset button on Internet regulation

Congressional Democrats jump into net neutrality mix - Tony Romm and Brooks Boliek - AT&T, meanwhile, launched a counteroffensive. Executives from the company warned the FCC in a Thursday meeting not to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service, saying such a step “would ignite multiyear regulatory controversies on a variety of issues,” according to a filing with the commission. Telecoms dislike that approach because they fear new regulations would unfairly restrict their business.
By classifying Internet service on a par with telephone service subject to common carrier mandates that all premises be offered service, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would not be restricting telecoms. Just the opposite. It would be opening up their markets beyond where they want to go by forcing them to embrace the fact that the Internet is the new telecommunications system. Notably, that's something the telcos themselves acknowledge in petitioning the FCC for relief from rules governing analog plain old telephone service (POTS) so they can allocate more capital investment to Internet infrastructure. With this reclassification of the Internet as a telecommunications service, telcos would be barred from their current market segmentation practices that arbitrarily redline parts of neighborhoods and even discrete roads and streets.

Telcos have been trying to hold onto the past by acting as if it's still 1996 and the Internet is a novel information service and not the global telecommunications service it has now become, carrying voice, data and video. It's time for the FCC to do an intervention and point to a calendar that reads 2014 (and for the Obama administration to fire the enablers who help the telcos cling to the past.) And at the same time, develop a new regulatory framework that allows a fair and orderly settlement scheme across all network layers and boundary points as called for by industry expert Michael Elling. As Elling correctly points out, that's what the "net neutrality" debate is really all about.

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