Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Kovacs is right: FCC reclassification of Internet as telecommunications service creates uncertainty. And it's about time.

Kovacs: D.C. Circuit's net neutrality ruling poses danger to edge providers - FierceTelecom: The D.C. Circuit's affirmation of the FCC's Open Internet Order creates enormous uncertainty for companies in all parts of the internet, not just for access providers. It invites edge providers to contort their services to attempt to evade classification under Title II. Thus, it threatens innovation and investment throughout the internet ecosystem.

So writes Anna-Maria Kovacs, a financial analyst and consultant affiliated with the Georgetown Center for Business and Public Policy. Kovacs has a valid point. Classifying Internet as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act is a major shift in regulatory policy. But the real uncertainty was sown by the FCC in 2002 when as then-FCC Commissioner Michael Copps recently noted, the FCC chose to classify Internet service as an information rather than telecommunication service.

How so? At that point in time, the Internet was well along the way toward becoming a de facto telecommunications service and on a global scale. Yet the 2002 FCC turned rolled the calendar of progress back a decade and kept it there for 13 years until the FCC reclassified in 2015. That created a enormous collision between the natural progression of telecommunications and federal regulatory policy.

Of course that's going to foster uncertainty for legacy telephone and cable providers and disrupt their business models based on the 1990s strategy of selling "broadband" as a premium add on to legacy voice telephone and cable service. That strategy can still be seen in 2016 as they and other ISPs continue to market "broadband" rather than telecommunications service with price tiers tied to bandwidth.

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