FCC inches toward deeper broadband regulation

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to look at strengthening its authority to regulate the broadband industry. This move could eventually lead to broadband being reclassified as a common carrier and it could have large ramifications on mobile data providers.

This vote officially opens the public comment portion of the debate and you can be sure there will be plenty of voices heard. Internet companies like Google and Microsoft (and us) are generally in favor of a neutral Internet – which is what the reclassification could lead to – because it puts competitors on an equal playing field. A Comcast, for example, couldn’t deliver its NBC videos at a higher quality than YouTube videos.

Not surprisingly, the service providers don’t like this. These companies argue that placing telephone-like regulations on the Internet is archaic because prioritizing traffic can lead to better and safer end-user experience. Additionally, heavy-handed regulations could lead to unneeded complications and expenses.

“Reclassifying high-speed broadband Internet service as a telecom service is a terrible idea,” Verizon said in a public statement. “The negative consequences for online users and the Internet ecosystem would be severe and have ramifications for decades. It is difficult to understand why the FCC continues to consider this option.”

The service providers are concerned that they will become nothing more than dumb pipes but I think this is the wrong way to look at it. These guys can provide the data delivery infrastructure and add in its own value-added services. Yes, these services have to be better than the competition but that’s just the way it goes. Verizon, AT&T, Comcast and others can utterly thrive by being clever pipes.

This should be first major telecommunications shakeup since 1996, so you can be sure that this will be a long, arduous process. I’m also sure that both sides of the debate will be throwing millions and millions of dollars into lobbying but that doesn’t mean your voice doesn’t matter. Let us know what you think in the comments.

[Via The New York Times]

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