Net Neutrality Or Continued Innovation? Can’t We Have Both?

25 July, 2017 / Articles
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This week, I submitted a report to the Federal Communications Commission in its highly-charged net neutrality proceeding, which proposes to reverse the “reclassification” of broadband Internet access as a public utility.

My comments addressed a specific question in the FCC’s May notice, which asked about the cost utility treatment for ISPs was having on innovation, both inside the network and in products and services—search, video, and emerging applications including the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, and virtual reality–offered on top of it.

The costs, it turns out, are high, and growing higher, while the benefits, if any, are fading fast.

Not that you’d know that from the massive public disinformation campaign being waged by proxies for leading Internet content providers funded by two well-known foundations.

Before a transition team had even been formed after last year’s election, coordinated advocacy groups have been insisting that unless consumers took immediate action the agency would destroy “the Internet as we know it” by “killing” net neutrality rules passed in 2015.

Regular readers will already know that the reality is something very different.

For one thing, as fellow Forbes contributor Roslyn Layton explains in her filing, the motive for pro-utility activists was never preserving net neutrality—a squishy non-engineering concept that referred initially to how Internet traffic should be managed but has since morphed into media-friendly shorthand for everything from democracy and free speech to “fairness” and basic human rights.

But all that Chairman Pai proposed to do back in May was to undo the transmutation of broadband ISPs into public utilities, subjecting them to common carrier regulations developed piecemeal in the last century to regulate the former Bell Telephone voice monopoly.

The undo is certain to happen, perhaps as early as later this fall.  Whether or in what form the net neutrality rules themselves will continue, or whether they will continue to be enforced by the FCC or revert to the Federal Trade Commission, remains to be seen in the coming months.

My report addressed the damage already done through public utility treatment.  Beyond serious legal, technical and economic drawbacks, detailed in dozens of other filings the agency will now review, reclassification violated what I coined in 1998 as “The Law of Disruption,” which states that while technology improves exponentially, social, business and political systems improve (if at all) incrementally.

This week, I submitted a report to the Federal Communications Commission in its highly-charged net neutrality proceeding, which proposes to reverse the “reclassification” of broadband Internet access as a public utility.

My comments addressed a specific question in the FCC’s May notice, which asked about the cost utility treatment for ISPs was having on innovation, both inside the network and in products and services—search, video, and emerging applications including the Internet of Things, autonomous vehicles, and virtual reality–offered on top of it.

The costs, it turns out, are high, and growing higher, while the benefits, if any, are fading fast.

Not that you’d know that from the massive public disinformation campaign being waged by proxies for leading Internet content providers funded by two well-known foundations.

Before a transition team had even been formed after last year’s election, coordinated advocacy groups have been insisting that unless consumers took immediate action the agency would destroy “the Internet as we know it” by “killing” net neutrality rules passed in 2015.

Regular readers will already know that the reality is something very different.

For one thing, as fellow Forbes contributor Roslyn Layton explains in her filing, the motive for pro-utility activists was never preserving net neutrality—a squishy non-engineering concept that referred initially to how Internet traffic should be managed but has since morphed into media-friendly shorthand for everything from democracy and free speech to “fairness” and basic human rights.

But all that Chairman Pai proposed to do back in May was to undo the transmutation of broadband ISPs into public utilities, subjecting them to common carrier regulations developed piecemeal in the last century to regulate the former Bell Telephone voice monopoly.

The undo is certain to happen, perhaps as early as later this fall.  Whether or in what form the net neutrality rules themselves will continue, or whether they will continue to be enforced by the FCC or revert to the Federal Trade Commission, remains to be seen in the coming months.

My report addressed the damage already done through public utility treatment.  Beyond serious legal, technical and economic drawbacks, detailed in dozens of other filings the agency will now review, reclassification violated what I coined in 1998 as “The Law of Disruption,” which states that while technology improves exponentially, social, business and political systems improve (if at all) incrementally.

The science man and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.

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