Since things have started really ramping up on the next wave of policy initiatives from the Obama administration (financial regulation, climate change, and net neutrality), now seems like a good time to start focusing down on details. The lay of the land as it stands now:
The Obama administration has decided to push forward with Net Neutrality through the FCC, which just released their proposed new rules
for debate over the next 60 days before a final vote. Wired has a good plain text summary
here, but the major take away points are that all the rules are going to be applied not just to line based data service providers but also wireless, and the meat is beefing up four existing rules and adding two new ones.
- Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service may not prevent any of its users from sending or receiving the lawful content of the user’s choice over the Internet.
- Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service may not prevent any of its users from running the lawful applications or using the lawful services of the user’s choice.
- Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service may not prevent any of its users from connecting to and using on its network the user’s choice of lawful devices that do not harm the network.
- Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service may not deprive any of its users of the user’s entitlement to competition among network providers, application providers, service providers, and content providers.
- Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service must treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner.
- Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service must disclose such information concerning network management and other practices as is reasonably required for users and content, application, and service providers to enjoy the protections specified in this part.
On the political front the fight looks to be decidedly bloody. It goes without saying every telecom company in existence is going to be willing to spend every penny they have to fight this, because it's the difference between being the choke point for digital content and getting obscenely wealthy and being dump pipes and just being profitable while the real money goes to device and content creators. The typical old media and struggling content providers on old business models
are already picking sides, which is likely to mean an unfriendly and even stupider than usual mainstream media.
The republicans are, as can be expected in any case involving a democratic initiative and business big old school businesses throwing money and their weight around, going to double down on obstructionism like there's no tomorrow. The odd thing for me is the letter 72 House Dems signed
opposing neutrality. The Blue Dogs are to be expected, given they've never met a business interest they weren't willing to slobber all over, but the odd as hell thing is the Black Caucus coming down with them. I sincerely have no idea what the hell is going on there.
On the pro side you have the new media and the democratic activists. Google, Facebook, and pretty much every innovative company of the last decade can't wait for this to happen. Opening up the internet is always good for them. The Net Roots, which basically is the entirety of the non-union democratic activist base, pretty clearly has a preference here. It's been one of their touch issues for years.
On the merits I can't say I've ever heard a good argument against net neutrality. Wireless and the internet are, for all intents and purposes, the infrastructure of the 21st century. They should be as widely available, high quality, and low cost as humanly possible. And that's leaving aside that social and democratic benefits of having wide open and freely available informaiton.
So that's where we are. The lobbying is going to be fast, furious, and bloody over the next two months, and at the end of the day it'll be passed by a five person vote from the FCC. It should be a fun ride.