FCC crosses the Rubicon into online regulation
Friday, December 3, 2010
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is poised to add the Internet to its portfolio of regulated industries. The agency’s chairman, Julius Genachowski, announced Wednesday that he circulated draft rules he says will “preserve the freedom and openness of the Internet.” No statement could better reflect the gulf between the rhetoric and the reality of Obama administration policies.
With a straight face, Mr. Genachowski suggested that government red tape will increase the “freedom” of online services that have flourished because bureaucratic busybodies have been blocked from tinkering with the Web. Ordinarily, it would be appropriate at this point to supply an example from the proposed regulations illustrating the problem. Mr. Genachowski’s draft document has over 550 footnotes and is stamped “non-public, for internal use only” to ensure nobody outside the agency sees it until the rules are approved in a scheduled Dec. 21 vote. So much for “openness.”
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The issue of “net neutrality” is nothing new, but the increasing popularity of online movie streaming services like Netflix have highlighted an area of potential concern. When someone watches a film over the Internet, especially in high definition, the maximum available capacity of the user’s connection is used. Think, for example, of the problems that would arise at the water works if everyone decided to turn on their faucets and take a shower simultaneously. Internet providers are beginning to see the same strain on their networks.
In some cases, heavy use of this sort slows the Web experience for everyone sharing the same lines. That has prompted some cable Internet providers to consider either charging the heavy users more or limiting access to the “problematic” services. Of course, if cinema buffs find themselves cut off from their favorite service, they’re going to be mad. If companies don’t act, they’re just as likely to find irate customers who don’t want their experience bogged down by others.
This article was posted: Friday, December 3, 2010 at 10:37 am