Friday, November 14, 2014

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To Net Neutrality

So Tuesday President Obama announced that he wanted the FCC to regulate broadband internet as a public utility, the way phones are regulated, in order to keep the internet free from "fast lane/slow lane" deals, site blocking, and to make internet more available to Americans.

Apparently somebody forgot to tell FCC Chairman (and former cable lobbyist mind you) Tom Wheeler, because it looks like none of this regulation stuff is going to happen.

Hours after President Obama called for the Federal Communications Commission to pass tougher regulations on high-speed Internet providers, the agency’s Democratic chairman told a group of business executives that he was moving in a different direction
Huddled in an FCC conference room Monday with officials from major Web companies, including Google, Yahoo and Etsy, agency Chairman Tom Wheeler said he preferred a more nuanced solution. His approach would deliver some of what Obama wants but also would address the concerns of the companies that provide Internet access to millions of Americans, such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable and AT&T
“What you want is what everyone wants: an open Internet that doesn’t affect your business,” a visibly frustrated Wheeler said at the meeting, according to four people who attended. “What I’ve got to figure out is how to split the baby.”

So it looks like Wheeler answers to the internet giants, not the President.

A growing source of frustration for White House and congressional Democrats is that they have three of their own on the five-member commission at the FCC, a majority that should give them the power to push through a policy of their liking. But if Wheeler charts a different course, he could bring the other members along with him. 
And, as Wheeler reminded participants at his meeting with Web companies Monday, the FCC does not answer to the Obama administration. 
I am an independent agency,” Wheeler told them repeatedly, according to several officials

In hindsight, perhaps putting a lobbyist in charge of the FCC was not the best idea, yes?  Of course, Wheeler isn't the problem, internet giants like AT&T are the problem, especially with such pissy behavior as this.

A&T Inc will stop investing in new high-speed Internet connections in 100 U.S. cities until regulators decide whether to enact tough “net neutrality” rules proposed by President Obama, Chief Executive Officer Randall Stephenson said on Wednesday.

The investment pause is the most dramatic action yet by a telecommunications or cable company after Obama on Monday urged the Federal Communications Commission to regulate Internet service providers more like public utilities.

At the same time, AT&T had been spending heavily acquisitions and had cut its capital spending estimate for 2015.

Companies and industry groups have already protested Obama’s proposal, saying it would stifle growth and investment.

“We can’t go out and invest that kind of money deploying fiber to 100 cities not knowing under what rules those investments will be governed,” Stephenson said at an analyst conference.

So this is a CEO punishing potential customers until it gets what it wants, and because broadband internet is a matter of a handful of providers or even a monopoly for many Americans, AT&T can get away with it.  What are consumers where AT&T is the only choice going to do?

So yes, think America needs a broadband policy?

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