We're From the Government...
by Rick Hoar, Managing Producer
December 10, 2009

There's a complicated topic lurking out there these days, and it seems that most folks are quick to comment on the debate, but few have taken the time to think it through completely. The issue of 'Net Neutrality' today is pitting Internet Service Providers against our beloved Federal Communications Commission, and basically, the question is:

"Should telecom companies be allowed to discriminate against different types of IP traffic on their networks?"

The corporations call it "reasonable network management," while their detractors are alarmed at the prospect of cable companies killing YouTube traffic to promote conventional TV-watching or Phone companies blocking Vonage to discourage VoIP competition with their long distance premiums.

Now, anyone who's been talking to me knows that I loathe the idea of a corporate-controlled America just as much as I hate big government. Combine that with the fact that I happen to be an independent media man, fighting every day to shrug off government- and competition-driven barriers to entry, and you've got the most compelling subject for a report that I've ever burned brain cells on.

So, here's how the thought process worked for me:

I was watching a Digg interview of FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, and found myself pleased that the FCC was finally taking the side of the little guy, and giving the cable and telephone suits a hard time for their continual gouging of service dollars out of the American public. As I pondered the possibilities for a freedom-loving FCC future, I came out of my trance and heard the old smell-o-meter alarming like never before.

I'm such an idiot!!! Why would I ever think that the FCC is on my side? Throughout its history, the Commission has continually asserted itself into areas of control to which it has no Constitutional basis for involvement. Once rooted, the regulating body inevitably favors the big corporations coming and going - providing for legal, tax-supported monopolies and then de-regulating at the ultimate expense of consumers. This 'Net Neutrality' business is no different.

Except now the future of global communications may be on the hook.

Using this issue as a springboard for entry into the regulation of Internet policy, the Federal Communications Commission is setting itself up to be THE determing body of what is and is not allowed to pass through the American "part" of the global Internet. The decisions start to come down in January 2010, and with legislation forming around similar ISP control suits in countries overseas, I'm afraid it's already a done deal.

The FCC will require ISP's to maintain traffic-neutral policies, but mandate no transparency of their 'network management' activities. Once the precedent is set, the corp’s will have an established (non-)reporting requirement, and the FCC will have purview over other issues moving forward, where previously they were given none. Good bye tax-free online purchases, uncensored media and open-access to the masses. Not to mention that if someone does manage to prove that their traffic has been mismanaged, the result will likely be a slap on the wrist fine, and an arbitrary promise to create more clearly written terms of service.

The solution is simple, but it will never see the light of day in these United States: Deny the FCC's authority with a strict-constructionist reading of the First Amendment, and simply let free-market competition drive better and better service for the buying public.

If Big Cable won't let you watch Hulu, then call up one of the hundreds of satellite service providers and see what they can do for you. It's more expensive in the short term, but with so many options for receiving digital communications coming online today, competition is, and will continue to be, your best friend.

<Sigh> But, if sense were common...