Do you really believe that government regulation of the internet will keep it “open”, fast and innovative? Really? Then you will be happy with today’s FCC decision to reclassify broadband internet service providers (ISPs) as “common carriers.” (The link above will take you to a Google search page with another link to “Washington Conquers the Internet“.) This puts the ISPs on the same regulatory footing as land-line and wireless voice services. The FCC’s action is a legal move that will pave the way for regulation of rates and service rules with the supposed aim of “net neutrality”.
The FCC chairman, Tom Wheeler, has recently argued that because the wireless carriers have enjoyed tremendous growth under the common carrier rules, there is no reason to fear that the broadband industry would suffer under the reclassification. However, as Peter Suderman explains, the common carrier rules applied only to wireless voice services, not to rapidly growing wireless data services. Wheeler’s argument is therefore misleading:
“... it suggests that Wheeler wants to pursue reclassification not because the wireless sector has been successful under Title II, but because of the service that has been successful without it.”
The FCC would almost assuredly reclassify wireless data as well as broadband as common carrier services.
Net neutrality is a misnomer, as Sacred Cow Chips has noted in the past here, here, and here. These posts cover shortcomings of so-called net neutrality such as mis-pricing of services, subverting incentives for network maintenance and growth, massive non-neutral subsidies for network hogs, the potential threat to free speech, and a negative impact on the poor. Warren Meyer at Coyote Blog expresses his dismay at the utter naivete of those who think that “net neutrality” sounds appealing:
“Here is my official notice — you have been warned, time and again. There will be no allowing future statements of “I didn’t mean that” or “I didn’t expect that” or “that’s not what I intended.” There is no saying that you only wanted this one little change, that you didn’t buy into all the other mess that is coming. You let the regulatory camel’s nose in the tent and the entire camel is coming inside. I guarantee it.”
Today’s FCC decision will also expose unsuspecting internet users to federal and local fees and taxes averaging about $49 per year. According to this calculation, that’s an increase in average broadband cost of about 9%. I believe that the estimate of the negative impact on subscribership given at the link is mistaken and too large (even in the update at the bottom), but there will certainly be a negative impact that could run into the millions of subscribers.
Finally, there is little doubt that FCC Chairman Wheeler felt strong pressure from the White House (another link at a Google search page) to reclassify ISPs as common carriers. President Obama is one of those souls who find “net neutrality” appealing, but I’m cynical enough to think that he merely finds the politics of “net neutrality” appealing. Big government can’t wait to control your “open internet”.
Postscript: This video is a lighthearted take on what the FCC is getting us into.