The recent vote on the principles of Net Neutrality (Chairman Genachowski voted for the Order; Commissioner Copps concurred and Commissioner Clyburn approved in part and concurred in part. Commissioners McDowell and Baker dissented.) at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has drawn criticism from both sides. Republicans in Congress are uniformly against it and Democrats are mixed. Consumer advocates say it does not go far enough to protect consumers and the big carriers and tech giants (Verizon, AT&T, Google, Microsoft, etc.) offered lukewarm to tepid praise.
If you are a consumer advocate, this should be cause for alarm. The idea that big business does not hate the current iteration of Net Neutrality is a pretty good indication that it is replete with loopholes.
Additionally, the newest version of Net Neutrality separates wired and wireless services, and gives wireless service providers all kinds of room to do what they please. You can read the FCC’s official press release about the vote here.
What is Net Neutrality? The FCC voted on six principles that were outlined back in September 2009. You can learn about it in an article I wrote back then entitled: “Net Neutrality: Do Six Principles Make Sense?” It articulates the original six principles and asks some questions about how enforceable they are in practice.
There are two other past articles that may help you form your own opinions about the issue. Before you can really think about Net Neutrality, you need to think about what broadband actually is. I asked that very same question just as the FCC was starting to think about the National Broadband Plan in an article entitled, “What is Broadband? Seriously!”
Of course, to understand broadband in the context of National Policy, you need to contemplate the smallest (and largest) unit of information a computer can currently use … a bit (binary digit). So the next question you would naturally ask is, “What’s a Bit?”
With the prerequisite thought experiments done, you can revisit the controversy from the Carriers and ISPs (Internet Service Providers) side. A good recent example is the legal battle between Comcast and Level 3, which I recently wrote about in an article entitled, “The Information Super Toll Road: An Intended Consequence of Net Neutrality.”
Which brings us to today. I have fielded dozens of phone calls, several hundred emails and all kinds of Facebook messages asking for Shelly Palmer’s definitive stand on Net Neutrality. So here it is: The FCC doesn’t have one, so how can I.
From all of the chatter on both sides of the issue, you might think that the FCC actually has a plan. If they do, I haven’t seen it. Have you? There are principles … they’ve been laid out since September 2009. There have been votes … but as far as I can tell, there is no Net Neutrality Rule, nor Policy. In fact, there are those who are questioning if FCC even has the right to enforce such a rule or policy if it were to exist.
What the commissioners voted on the other day is a … well, I’m not sure what to call it. Whatever it is, it will most certainly end up in court, then the Congress will get involved. This is not a productive way to lead America into the Information Age.
Net Neutrality is a very serious and very complex issue and I think it is a huge disservice to America to keep playing at it without actually doing something about it. America needs a negotiated settlement between big business and consumers. We need a real solution, and sans that, we need workable conflict management. Net Neutrality Limbo is simply not acceptable.