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Can You Counterpoint a Counterpoint on the FCC and Net Neutrality?

March 3, 2015
Going against the grain, I have at least a neutral view to what many refer to as “evil government regulation,” or the FCC beginning to regulate U.S. broadband networks.

I would like to provide some counterpoint thoughts to Lou Frenzel’s original points in his latest blog on Electronic Design, “The FCC Just Imprisoned the Internet,” and Bill Wong’s blog on Lou’s blog, “Counterpoint: The FCC Just Imprisoned the Internet.” Going against the grain, I have at least a neutral view to what many refer to as “evil government regulation,” or the FCC beginning to regulate U.S. broadband networks.

I actually feel pretty confident that the FCC taking broadband and mobile Internet under its wings will actually open doors to growth, limit customer/provider confusions, and cut down significantly on the senseless marketing jargon that dictates a lot of technically non-savvy people’s view of the Internet. With broadband Internet access labeled as a telecommunications service, which it really is, and regulated under Title II of the Communications Act, there is little doubt left that the FCC and U.S. government are backing Internet access as a resource for everyone. I feel like this approach is a necessary step, as we are on the eve of a major proliferation of connected devices.

With no blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization mandated—“mandated,” not just avoided to save face and covered with other flowery language—any small or large organization can participate in the growth and sharing of all broadband-related services. This could very well include wearables, sensors, and other connected devices in the future. For example, your wearable watch right now may send data to a storage and analysis service via a broadband-based service. If paid prioritization were popular, that service may have to pay or charge consumers additional penalties for any reasonable bandwidth.

That example was meant to convey that the so-called “net neutrality” or “open Internet” rules are designed to prevent extortion for connecting devices and people to their larger community. The ruling also seeds the ground in some way for privacy and data ownership. I could envision that not having a policy like this could eventually allow for a corporate entity to decide that the information that passes through its channels is its property, which would turn into a large legal mess. My colleague Bill Wong alludes to the start of this trend with Verizon’s super cookies that basically let them know everything you are doing. The next obvious step, which may already be done, is selling that data, copyrighting it, and preventing you from using your own thoughts and actions shared through their network.

So, even with having to accept the yoke of regulation on the way the Internet is served to millions in the United States, the ideals of openness, transparency, and freedom associated with the Internet might just be preserved with these rulings. I spent a little time pondering the global impacts of the battle the U.S. is fighting right now with broadband Internet service. I feel that the statement made in the ruling, “that broadband Internet service is a utility,” is also the government saying that everyone should have access to the Internet.

This puts the Internet on the same level as public roads, parks, electric service, and gas. Are these systems run perfectly? No. But we’re people, and we just don’t get perfect. These utilities, though, are maintained and protected, and at least some amount of burden and the potential for exploitation is removed off of the backs of the people. All of the details and ramifications of the ruling aren’t hammered out yet. But I feel that without some degree of regulation, the rampant adoption of the Internet of Things concepts would be dictated by corporate powers too easily seduced by the money they could garner by self-imposed control.

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