Pending FCC Action on Net Neutrality Raises Unfounded Fears, Warnings

NEWS ANALYSIS: Depending on who you listen to, a Federal Communications Commission decision to end the reclassification of the internet under Title II regulations might or might not be the end of the world.

Net Neutrality Action

By the looks of my inbox, there are two significant events are unfolding. First, Cyber Monday is redistributing the income of millions of Americans including mine into the coffers of Amazon and Walmart. Second, it won’t matter because the internet and thus the world coming to an end.

I won’t go into Cyber Monday any more than to say that only a misbehaving Amazon check-out page saved me from certain financial ruin. However, it seems clear that by the end of the day, online retailers will be celebrating the year in which they overtook physical stores in total Cyber Monday sales.

The net neutrality madness is another matter entirely. Washington DC, demonstrators have been picketing the Federal Communications Commission at all hours of the day and night. Crowds have been gathering outside Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai’s house in Northern Virginia. Others have been telling Pai’s children that he’s a murderer of innocents, or worse.

Many of those folks have been filling the email inboxes of journalists in Washington to an extent that we rarely see. The emailed claims are varied, but they have a common thread, which is that the FCC is about to end the Internet in some horrible, but unspecified, manner. They also claim to have “facts” from a wide variety of sources, many of which don’t actually exist.

These attacks on the impending FCC action are similar in a disturbing number of ways to the fake news that surrounded Hillary Clinton’s campaign during the 2016 elections. For example, much of the email I’ve received warns about how the big companies and the major internet sites stand to reap huge benefits, but those same assertions fail to account for the fact that those companies are on record as favoring the classification to Title II.

Other warnings appear telling me about the dangers of so-called “fast lanes” that would hurt internet users, yet they fail to acknowledge that those awful fast lanes have existed for years, continued to exist under the Title II reclassification and will continue in the same manner regardless of whether the Title II classification continues as-is.

Those dreaded fast lanes are being run by third-party content delivery networks and by private networks being operated by major ISPs. What those organizations are doing is providing private networks that bypass much of the internet as a way to avoid congestion. This has been going on since the first day Akamai launched its first Content Delivery Network nearly 20 years ago.

Or perhaps the ISPs will throttle the content that they don’t like or that competes with a service that they sell. This could happen, but if it does, the Federal Trade Commission has a long history of taking action against such companies—or did until forced to stop by the reclassification and Open Internet Order of 2015.

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash

Wayne Rash is a freelance writer and editor with a 35 year history covering technology. He’s a frequent speaker on business, technology issues and enterprise computing. He covers Washington and...