Network Neutrality Debate Descends Into Political Shoving Match

By Wayne Rash  |  Posted 2014-11-10 Print this article Print
Net Neutrality

But others aren't so sure. Brent Skorup, a research fellow at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University said the "President’s announcement is puzzling because the political consensus is that the 1934 Communications Act should be retired in favor of modern, flexible laws that place consumers—not industries—at the forefront." In a subsequent interview with eWEEK, Skorup said that putting ISPs under Title II is an overreach on the part of the FCC.

Skorup noted that the idea of the FCC to use forbearance on parts of Title II that don't apply to the Internet would be an almost impossible task, given the months or years that it could take for the FCC to decide exactly how to apply forbearance, assuming it could find a legal way to do so that would survive the inevitable judicial review.

Meanwhile, the FCC and customers of ISPs would be left in a sort of technology limbo, never knowing for sure exactly how the rules would apply, which rules might apply and. if they were to apply, how the FCC would enforce them, considering, as Skorup notes, that Congress is mostly silent on the issue even in the most recent updates to the communications laws.

On the other hand, recent history has shown that communications companies don't necessarily have customers' best interests in mind, as AT&T, which handles both wireless and cable Internet communications, has demonstrated. In one case, the carrier was found to be "cramming customer's bills with charges for services never ordered, and in another, fudging on unlimited data plans.

Clearly, there needs to be some means of making sure that ISPs treat consumers fairly, but it's by no means clear that Title II is the right way. But Sen. Cruz notwithstanding, enough carriers have tried to pull a fast one on their own customers that some kind of control appears to be necessary.

The problems with purely regulatory controls are many and not the least of which is that the federal courts have found that the FCC lacks the statutory authority to do this. But just because the agency currently lacks authority it needs doesn't mean it has to be that way. There's really nothing to prevent the White House and the Congress from drafting legislation that would give the FCC the authority it needs to protect consumers without interfering with innovation.

Let me rephrase that. There's nothing except stupidity, and sadly there's been that in abundance in both the Congress and the White House. If both sides could work together, there could be a solution, but we all know that will never happen. Thus my wish for a pox on both their houses.


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