Net Neutrality A Likely Reality In 2009
Once the election smoke has cleared, Congress appears poised to pass Network Neutrality legislation. With promises from the Obama campaign about upholding neutrality principles, any remaining FCC opposition will be left standing out on a weak limb.
If you hadn’t noticed that the Congress did virtually nothing these past two years, well, that’s because they were likely laying low while campaign money was still hot (certain major corporations are both anti-neutrality and big donors) and while it was still conceivable to shift blame to an already failing administration. If anything at all was accomplished it was while we were distracted by other things—FISA with telco immunity late enough in campaign season the people were discussing Obama and Clinton, but early enough to secure more money in advance of the big dance, and harsh new copyright infringement legislation while John McCain and Barney Frank were staging histrionic economic crisis distractions.
Laying low definitely paid off, but now Congressional Democrats have some more backup to actually get some things accomplished—one of those things, thanks to less Republican objection, will be Net Neutrality in 2009. No doubt neutral-net champions Ed Markey and Byron Dorgan will be dusting off legislation lying dormant since 2007.
President-elect Obama, if true to his word, will sign it into law soon after he’s appointed a new head of the FCC. The shortlist of candidates for that position, at least in the order BusinessWeek presented them, is a bit disturbing on that front, and includes, much like current Bush-appointed FCC leadership, former lobbyists for AT&T and Verizon as well as executives at lesser known telecom companies. While that industry insider knowledge is doubtlessly valuable, the clearer choice would be one of the current minority commissioners Michael Copps or Jonathan Adelstein, both of whom have been powerful opposition forces against their three Republican counterparts, and especially against the hapless Chairman Kevin Martin.
Both the telecom and cable industries (as well as entertainment associations and network technology companies also with vested interest in the opposite of neutrality) have pushed hard against regulation. The FCC has been hot and cold on it, requiring without enforcement ability Bell South and AT&T to agree to a set of principles in order to merge, and later wrist-slapping Comcast for interfering with torrents. Comcast is appealing action against them, claiming the FCC doesn’t have the authority to punish them. They might be right, at least until legislation is passed.
AT&T is still playing the game on this issue, this mind-blowing quote exiting from AT&T veep James Cicconi in ComputerWorld:
"There’s a lot of people who now believe that companies like AT&T are not plotting to overthrow the open Internet concept," Cicconi said.
“It’s against AT&T’s economic interest to block or slow Internet content, because customers demand an open Internet, he added. "Our core asset is our network," he said. "We get paid for carrying bits."
Mind-blowing because there has been no larger, stauncher opponent of Net Neutrality, unless Cicconi hasn’t heard his bosses speak about it. Before the merger both CEOs of BellSouth and AT&T expressly stated their opposition and their desire to discriminate between content providers and the company, alongside Verizon, actively lobbied against any such openness while declaring falling skies, dying hospital patients, and crashing economies.
Well, economies crashed alright, but it wasn’t because of Net Neutrality regulation. Rather it seems no regulation at all caused the economies current woes, doesn’t it?