The tech media still doesn’t understand the FCC’s net neutrality regulations

By Yaël Ossowski  / March 19, 2015  /

Since the Federal Communications Commission released its net neutrality regulations last week, there have been some strange interpretations about what these rules mean for Internet consumers.

For instance, an article by Newsweek
says the regulations will prohibit Internet service providers from
limiting traffic based upon “commercial interests,” a phrase that never
makes an appearance in the 400-page compendium of regulations released
by the FCC on March 12.

Newsweek singles out “Comcast, Verizon and AT&T” as the likely
culprits in this scenario, seemingly hell-bent on routing out network
traffic that could put their “commercial” model in danger. But does this
mean these companies are now providing public services?

Does the classification of ISPs as Title II public utilities mean
they are no longer providing a product and service of a commercial
nature, and it’s now strictly a public good to be regulated and
allocated by the public sector?

This would surely go against the currently legal understanding of regulated public utilities, which are protected by governments to be monopolies.

Robert Litan, nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institute,
the most well-known nonpartisan, nonprofit think tank in the world,
says this is precisely why these regulations will “not only hurt on the
ISPs, but could one day boomerang on certain major tech companies too.”

A post
from the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the major players that
advocated issuance of the regulations, finds plenty of fault with the
FCC plan but still believes it was the right fit.

EFF claims it’s a “win for Team Internet,” presumably part of the
slim 25 percent of Americans who even know what net neutrality is,
according to a February poll released by the Progressive Policy Institute.

“We applaud the FCC for listening to Internet users and acting to
protect the open Internet from unfair discrimination by mobile and
wireline Internet service providers,” wrote EFF’s Kit Walsh.

Ars Technica, a bastion for tech news analysis, says the rules will ban ISPs from speeding up contentin exchange for payment,” again something not found in the regulations.

In the tech media, therefore, the situation presented is a dichotomy
between ISPs determining which content is appropriate and the FCC

This being the same FCC having demonstrated a propensity to bend to the will of the executive branch, if the latest rumored FCC inspector general investigation is to be believed, or even the biggest lobbyist.

In the FCC’s own words, these allow it to enforce the rules and play the Internet’s referee.

“The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules,” said chairman Tom Wheeler before the net neutrality vote Feb. 26.

One of the most important parts of the FCC’s regulation hinges on the banned blocking of “lawful content,” leaving the independent agency with the power to decide what is unlawful or not.

Some analysts, however, view this as nothing more than an unnecessary
intervention that will ultimately hurt those it was intended to

They say it will create a situation where the winners and losers will
be determined by their connections to Washington, not their ability to
compete in the marketplace, favoring larger ISPs and firms to smaller

“As such, success and failure will rely more on Silicon Valley’s
sophistication in navigating and finessing the corridors of power than
on new ideas and business acumen,” writes Christopher Yoo, professor of law at the University of Pennsylvania.

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