Like Sisyphus the FCC Pushes On
[I filed some comments with the FCC today in the Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. It’s hard to believe, but the FCC has been at this for ten years now. The summary follows, and afterwards there’s a link to the entire 17 pages of text.]
Ten years after Chairman Powell spoke about Internet Freedom at the Silicon Flatirons Center in Colorado, the FCC continues to struggle with casting his aspirations into legally binding regulations. The agency offers a simple set of proposed rules expanding the transparency principle, recasting the no-blocking rule on firmer legal ground, and similarly recasting the anti-discrimination rule within the limits of the commercial reasonableness standard affirmed by the courts in the Commission’s Data Roaming Order.
If we accept the premise that the Internet is in imminent danger – as we’ve been told for ten years – the new rules proposed by the Commission are rational and sensible. They are certainly brief, comprising only two pages of text. Yet this compact set of rules inspires to Commission to write nearly 200 pages of explanations, questions, and invitations to comment. It appears that the Commission has been engaged in this process for so long that it is in danger of losing sight of the goal. It’s certainly the case that the Internet is doing well despite the forecasts of doom; the non-factual claims that U. S. broadband is falling behind (it isn’t); and the blank record of lawful net neutrality regulations in the United States.
At the urging of a handful of influential partisans and non-expert public figures, the Commission seriously considers applying common carrier telephone network regulations to a dynamic industry that develops and builds on technologies that are as far removed from telephony as any communication technology can possibly be. Moreover, the history of open Internet regulations shows they impair actual telephone services over the Internet such as Vonage and Skype. Like Sisyphus, the Commission pushes on.
In the name of preserving openness, the FCC has given us network fragmentation and created barriers to convergence. This is neither consistent with common engineering sense nor with the Section 706 mandate, as it slows the deployment of advanced networks.
I write these comments to urge the Commission to reframe the issue in terms that are more consistent with its legal mandate and more likely to stimulate further improvement in both broadband networks and the applications and services that depend upon them, especially real-time applications disadvantaged by Content Delivery Networks.