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Both supporting and opposing Net Neutrality

November 13, 2014

router-symbolNet Neutrality is a topic that has been on my radar for quite some time. Due to focus on elections I have failed to blog about it; but that changes today. I’ll start with this small post and likely focus on the issue more going forward on this blog.

President Obama’s remarks have caused the issue to gain even more traction. I fully support many of the concepts brought up by the President. These concepts include no blocking of traffic, no throttling certain types of traffic, increased transparency, and no paid prioritization. These are all basic principles of net neutrality. But asking the FCC to reclassify Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) as Title II is not the answer. That would potentially lead to the opposite of a free and open internet.

What is net neutrality? Net neutrality is more of an idea or belief than anything. It is the belief that the internet should be free from manipulation or favoritism by any group. These groups include individuals, ISP’s, governments, or any other type of group. The basic idea is that all internet users will have the same exact access to all information available on the internet. This is the concept I support, and I believe the concept most advocates of net neutrality support.

There is another usage of net neutrality that is often intermixed with the definition as I would use it. This second usage of net neutrality is more focused on the marketing term used by certain groups to allow the FCC to regulate internet access. This second use of net neutrality is not something I support. To me the risks associated with allowing the FCC to regulate internet access far outweigh the perceived benefits.

As I said above the President touted FCC regulation of the internet access as a way to ensure no blocking of traffic, no throttling certain types of traffic, increased transparency, and no paid prioritization. The problem is reclassifying internet access as Title II would suddenly place hundreds of rules and regulations that were setup for the telecommunications industry of the 20th century. Many of those rules can be said to have actually held back progress in certain media fields. These rules also tended to make it hard for new entries in the market. In reality the large telco monopolies coming out of the 20th century are a result of regulatory intervention, and not as a result of free market (there is no true free market in the telco industry).

In order to prevent these outdated rules from negatively impacting the internet it would be up to the FCC to use ‘forbearance’. Forbearance is the term used by the FCC to not follow rules that don’t make sense for a particular area of regulation. Theoretically if the FCC properly uses forbearance it would limit its own power and thus cause minimal unintended consequences to the internet. In order for forbearance to work it would mean the FCC and members of Congress resist any regulations asked for by the big ISP’s to stifle competition. Anyone that follows how DC works should understand that it is almost near impossible to keep special interest groups out of regulation. To ask for internet access to be reclassified as Title II is the same asking for special interest groups in DC to regulate the internet? I can’t see any possible outcome where that would support my original meaning of net neutrality.

Going forward I plan to do more posts about different aspects of net neutrality. In this post I just basically wanted to say that I support the idea of net neutrality, but at the same time I oppose the regulatory use of net neutrality by the FCC. I believe the FCC’s involvement will make internet fairness actually un-achievable. The few cases we have of ISP’s (such as Comcast) doing things against the idea of net neutrality will be basically be protected by FCC regulations in the future through loopholes that will exist at the behest of special interest groups.

PS. To learn more about net neutrality I would check out the EFF. I have supported EFF for years and will continue to do so. The EFF has supported the FCC reclassification of internet access to Title II. But they do it with a lot of reservations and have a lot of good articles explaining different aspects of net neutrality. If the FCC does reclassification (which it likely will) I believe the EFF will be the best watchdog internet users have over the FCC.

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