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ISPs Find a Legislator to Stymie FCC Broadband Regs

A Florida congressman has introduced a bill aimed at preventing the Federal Communications Commission from reclassifying broadband and imposing net neutrality unless it can find examples of systemic market failure. The bill, called the Internet Protection, Investment, and Innovation Act, sets pretty high hurdles over which the FCC would need to jump before it could get involved in regulating information services such as those Google (s goog) offers or access, such as the broadband pipes. In short, it’s exactly what I picture legislation written by Verizon (s vz) or AT&T (s T) would look like.

The FCC has clearly said it doesn’t want to regulate the information services, and is willing to go pretty far out in excluding ISPs from regulations that they would fall under as part of its efforts to reclassify broadband as a transport service. This bill, submitted by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), proposes that instead of the fairly reasonable approach the FCC has chosen to implement — and it really is pretty reasonable — the agency would have to take several time-consuming steps, including a cost-benefits analysis and a formal rule-making process, before it actually could stop an ISP from, for example, blocking VoIP calls or even P2P files, both of which have happened before.

Personally, this bill was damned in my eyes from page two when I read the clause about the FCC needing to show how monopolistic practices harmed consumers by “preventing a substantial number of consumers nationwide from accessing a substantial amount of lawful Internet content, applications and services.” Internet access and the lack of competition is a profoundly local issue in many areas – something that ISPs continually try to gloss over (try to catch Verizon praising its DSL lines).

My service choices are vastly different here in Austin than those of my colleagues in New York or even in rural Pennsylvania. Should my ISP decide to filter or mess with content in Austin, it doesn’t have to do it nationwide in order to still create a problem for me and my neighbors. I might argue it’s a nationwide problem to have isolated chunks of the population living in a digital backwater, but this language assumes that unless a problem is nationwide, it’s not worth FCC involvement. Our government is supposed to protect everyone and promote equality, not gloss over those that aren’t equal simply because they aren’t part of a nationwide problem.

Anyhow, for those who want to check out the telecommunications lobby and agenda in bill form, read Stearns’ legislation.

Image courtesyof Flickr user Eddie~S

5 Responses to “ISPs Find a Legislator to Stymie FCC Broadband Regs”

  1. John Thacker

    “both of which have happened before.”

    Both of which have been blocked before by the FCC’s current powers when they happened. So how is that an argument to increase the FCC’s powers?

    On the other side of the ledger, the FCC’s current censorship of broadcast TV and radio gives me no reason to favor extending their powers over cable and broadband to similar heights.

  2. rfceo

    For those of you living in a box with no window, the government sold the Internet to the highest bidders long ago. Read this sent to FCC Chairman M. Powell, on how the move he was making would basically wipe out an industry. Most of what Thomas M. Sullivan wrote in this letter has already happened. The US needs an open national network that all providers and companies can share, opening the way once again for competition. This will lower prices and improve customer service. Right now your current provider may care less about how your service is preforming.

  3. “… unless it can find examples of systemic market failure.”

    That might be difficult since with the exception of a few large urban centers, there are no functioning and competitive broadband markets in the U.S.

  4. Well, it’s a start. We need to find ways to stop the Socialism. There is no need for the government to get a foothold into the Internet. We’ll all lose – speech, choices, etc.

  5. Seeing how Rep. Henry Waxman, who is chairman of the FCC’s oversight committee, urged Genachowski to reclassify internet services, I wouldn’t bet on this bill going anywhere.