Net Neutrality: Yay?

After years of agitating and lobbying, the FCC finally approved “Net Neutrality” – at least a compromise version of it. It’s a decision certain to set off partisan fights. For years Republicans have fought the concept of Net Neutrality as antithetical to free enterprise and damaging to innovation.  It’s simply another example of “big government” overreaching its authority.  Liberals will say that the rule is vague, full of loopholes, and doesn’t go far enough.

Regardless this is a positive development, as long as it’s not a one-off.  Hopefully it will spur congressional action. Any type of regulation to ensure that ISPs can’t charge more for accessing certain sites, like Comcast is attempting to do with a provider of streaming services for Netflix, is a step forward.  Unfortunately, this is a ruling that doesn’t anticipate the future, or even the present. The FCC has only regulated wired connections. Despite their history and seeming ubiquity, wired connections via the Comcasts and Qwests of the world, are yesterday’s internet connection. They’ll be around for quite sometime, but wireless is the future.  Much like the trend from landlines to cell phones cloud computing, iPads and tablets, and mobile internet are how we will access Facebook, Netflix, Youtube, and the rest of the internet.

It’s this reality that the FCC ignored or simply brushed aside because wireless technology and networks are still young and growing.  While the FCC left the door open for future regulations, this ruling looks quite similar to the deal struck by Verizon and Google earlier this year, which is sort of like allowing industry to write the rules itself.  The idea of allowing an ISP to determine how much it will cost you to access certain websites (you want Facebook? It will cost you this much.) is scary.  But it might be the future unless we push our elected officials to take the issue out of the hands of the FCC and pass some laws.

I do believe that the ruling is positive and will spur further rules or even laws.  I have no reason to be so positive, but that’s what I’m going with.  We’ll all be in “the Cloud” eventually, no one buys a computer because it has a 250 gb or take a look at Microsoft’s latest campaign, “Let’s go the cloud”.  Let’s make sure it doesn’t cost us more.  Yes, today was a cave to industry interests, maybe in the vain hope that the ruling was a benign enough “compromise” that it wouldn’t spur litigation.  But, it was a start and a challenge for us.  Let’s make some noise to make it better and keep the internet free.

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