In the afterglow of the Federal Communications Commission's decision favoring Net Neutrality, supporters are having to face some tough issues that lie ahead. The order prohibits broadband providers from blocking, slowing or selling faster delivery of content flowing through their networks. By approving the regulations, the FCC granted the longstanding wishes of public-interest advocates, technology firms and Democrats to strengthen government oversight of the Internet and prevent abuses by broadband service providers.
Even so, the debate over the issue will continue to rage. The fact that the new regulations were decided in a party-line 3-2 vote shows the partisan ideologies on both sides of the technology policy and demonstrated that the issue's ultimate resolution could be years away.
Can They Handle It?
Some critics say the FCC has bitten off more than it can chew with the new 'ObamaNet' regulations. The FCC employs 1,720 people, according to its Web site, but the Internet is used by an estimated 250 million to 300 million Americans every day. That amounts to trillions of actions a day and new activities and uses constantly being discovered and innovated. How can such a relatively small number of regulators manage such a moving target?
Only the five FCC commissioners and a few staffers have seen the 317-page Net Neutrality order. That in itself has raised eyebrows. Congressional Republicans have labeled it a "secret plan to regulate the Internet" driven by President Obama. The GOP pushed unsuccessfully for the full proposal to be released before the vote.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said the full order would be made public on the FCC Web site and published in the Federal Register, but has given no indication about when that will happen. It will probably happen before too long, since the regulations can't take effect until 60 days after they are published in the Federal Register.
Once that happens, one or more broadband service providers or trade associations will probably go to court to stop it, and might succeed if precedence means anything. When the FCC publicly released its previous, looser Net Neutrality regulations four years ago, Verizon successfully filed an appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia. Judges ruled that the FCC was trying to treat broadband providers like more highly regulated conventional telephone companies without formally classifying them that way under Title 2 of the telecommunications law.
If the new regulations survive intact, some of the so-far loosely defined provisions in them will have to be spelled out. Among those provisions: Broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services or non-harmful devices; they may not "throttle," or impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services or non-harmful devices; and they may not introduce "fast lanes" that favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration of any kind.
For supporters of Net Neutrality, the battle was won -- but the war might just be starting.
Cynical de Bergerac:
Posted: 2015-03-01 @ 10:08am PT
Now the corporate checkbooks come out and we'll see how a corrupt Supreme Court affects our lives once again. Money is speech; corporations are people.