This Thursday, the FCC opens up comments on its proposal regulate the Internet. While no one is quite sure all that it will contain, Scott Cleland (a long-time telecom policy expert and insider) has pieced together recent FCC filings from Google to outline how Net Neutrality regulations could be part of a grand plan to control how virtually all media enters your home. Here's a brief summary:
Under the guise of “Net Neutrality” and “consumer protection” the FCC would begin regulating Internet access for the first time under a completely new regulatory scheme (even though they lack the authority to create it). Meanwhile, the FCC would push regulations – cloaked in the heart-warming language of competition and innovation – mandating that your cable box (known as a set-top box) become a “broadband gateway device” controlling access to your Internet, TV, and phone. The FCC has already started looking at set-top box regulations in their National Broadband Plan.
The FCC would then begin setting rates for the total cost of all three services. Chairman Genachowski said he does not intend to set prices for Internet access. However, the legal maneuvering is so tenuous and the desire from left-wing groups so strong that a mere promise to “forbear” from rate setting is certainly no guarantee. On top of this, it would open the door for the FCC to begin monitoring or censoring content on the Internet (in addition to your TV), something Free Press and other progressives, as well as the White House regulatory czar advocate. The Songwriters Guild of America has a great op-ed on why government censorship is entirely possible if the Internet becomes regulated.
This plan outlines a dark hypothetical world that would effectively destroy any future competition for services and turn our nation’s networks into “dumb pipes” under government centralized control. Everyone will buy an Internet/TV/Phone connectivity box that the government approves. Everyone will pay rates for service that the government sets. And everything passing through your Internet, TV, or phone would become subject to the FCC’s consistent regulatory whim.
Worst of all, this extreme case of political favoritism for Google’s business model (which is developing set-top boxes and carrying all content to users for "free") is not out of the realm of possibility. Both Google and the socialist organization Free Press have long pushed for such regulations and both are arguably the closest groups to FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. They are also strong supporters of President Obama who are calling for their payoff. The former head of Google’s policy shop is now Chief Technology Officer at the White House and Free Press’s former press director is the FCC’s spokesperson.
There are a lot of hurdles for the FCC should they choose this horrendously anti-free market route to take over the nation’s Internet networks and control the flow of media. Already facing severe bipartisan opposition from Congress and the court, the FCC would certainly invite another legal challenge. But if it works, Internet, phone, and TV service will simply become Google Chrome, Android/Google-Voice, and Google TV.