The new and (not) improved FCC

A number of incredibly sweeping rule changes that could change the way we use the Internet forever are in motion. This is all happening with very little fanfare. Where is the outrage over the latest kick in the collective balls of consumers?

As Scott Bradner put it in his 08/15/05 post on the recent FCC actions:

So now we know that the FCC’s priorities are, in order: 1) protect incumbent carriers, 2) give law enforcement more than it needs and a distant 3) pretend to be concerned about the customer.

The recent FCC rulings essentially say that he who owns the access link may control what flows over that link. This means those providing the access link will decide what applications we run. And guess what? Those that own the link consider that we (their customers) are ripping them off every time we use Google to find a website, because they aren’t getting a piece of that action. So what does that tell you about the Internet we will “enjoy” in the years to come, as the incuments and cable companies get their way?

The FCC has made a lot of noise about the so called “four freedoms” which include being able to access Internet content, run whatever applications you want and having competition among providers. But these principles are apparently not important enough to be made made into law or even an FCC regulation. And Scott Bradner points out that even when stated as simply guiding principles (rather than rules or regulations) the FCC waters them down to “worthlessness”:

For example, you can run any application as long as law enforcement says you can. For some of the law enforcement people I’ve talked to that would mean you could not use a VPN back to the office to read your confidential corporate e-mail. In addition, all four principles are subservient to “reasonable network management,” meaning that an ISP could say I can’t manage my network if you run that application or access that content.

This is a war of attrition, to which the incumbents excel… and they are winning. It took them almost 10 years, but they have finallly won the line sharing battle and achieved the utter destruction of the 1996 Communications Act.

The incumbent LECs and their supposed competition (the cable companies), will continue to wage this war of attrition against the “four freedoms” and of course the FCC, with the help of DOJ and the Supreme Court, will comply. Don’t kid yourself; no one speaks for the consumer. The FCC likes to make statements about how “consumers would never stand for application blocking by access providers.” Apparently consumers will stand for it. Besides, what choice will they have?