RSS
The FCC and net neutrality
Who wins and loses when the government mandates equal access for all websites?
F

ederal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachowski “picked his first official fight Monday,” said the Los Angeles Times in an editorial, “and it’s a doozy.” Genachowski laid out two key principles of “net neutrality”—the idea that ISPs must treat all Internet sites equally—and said the FCC should turn them, plus four others from 2004, into formal, legally binding rules. If done right, that’s a great way to keep the Web a hotbed of innovation.

The six principles will almost certainly be adopted as formal FCC rules, said Stephen Wildstrom in BusinessWeek. And it’s equally certain that “telcom companies will sue to overturn them.” Unless Congress acts, the telecoms will probably win. The net neutrality rules “strike me as eminently reasonable,” but courts are beholden to laws, not “sensibility.”

Who can blame the telecoms? said The Wall Street Journal in an editorial. AT&T, Verizon, and other broadband providers have spent “tens of billions on broadband pipe” since 2007, and now President Obama’s FCC wants to reward “Google and other Web content providers whose business model depends on freeloading”? Obama can have net neutrality or expanded broadband coverage, but not both.

The new rules really aren’t “as threatening a proposition as the major ISPs would have you believe,” said Stacey Higginbotham in GigaOm. But they also don’t address “high-profile consumer issues” such as metered broadband or making the iPhone available on Verizon. Net neutrality is good for consumers, but the big winners are Internet startups and companies that use lots of bandwidth, such as video and VoIP sites.

EDITORS' PICKS

THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER

Subscribe to the Week