Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Net Neutrality Wins a Round

The plan to regulate the internet as a public utility, hatched by the Democratic commissioners on the FCC and supported by President Obama, has survived a challenge from Republican Congressmen and appears set to be passed:
The Federal Communications Commission is expected on Thursday to approve regulating Internet service like a public utility, prohibiting companies from paying for faster lanes on the Internet. While the two Democratic commissioners are negotiating over technical details, they are widely expected to side with the Democratic chairman, Tom Wheeler, against the two Republican commissioners.

And Republicans on Capitol Hill, who once criticized the plan as “Obamacare for the Internet,” now say they are unlikely to pass a legislative response that would undo perhaps the biggest policy shift since the Internet became a reality.
The Republicans caved largely because of the flood of interest generated by web communities like Etsy and Tumblr, including more than 4 million public comments on the proposed regulations and 55,000 phone calls to the FCC.

This is not a long-term solution; Senator John Thune, who is leading Republican efforts in this direction, is exactly right that eventually legislation will be needed:
“Tech companies would be better served to work with Congress on clear rules for the road. The thing that they’re buying into right now is a lot of legal uncertainty,” said Mr. Thune. “I’m not sure exactly what their thinking is.”
It seems to me that the thinking of small internet providers is pretty obvious: we may not like government regulation of the internet, but we vastly prefer that to letting private companies treat it as something they own and operating it to extract the maximum profit. To whatever extent is possible, we want the internet treated like a public square where anyone can speak, not a tv station where the management chooses what you see and what you don't.

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