Genachowski to Broadband: Reduce Prices, Increase Speeds, Increase Access, Embrace Competition

Julius Genachowski
Image by jdlasica via Flickr

Broadband providers are not taking the recent move by the FCC to reclassify broadband under Title II; i.e., put broadband under its regulation arm along with the likes of telephone companies, very lightly and have come out swinging to stop that effort. See (Obama’s Internet Takeover: Telecom giant challenges FCC role in broadband)

Seemingly at issue; an appeal brought by Comcast with the D.C. Court of Appeals and the subsequent defeat of the FCC’s perceived role as a broadband regulator, ruling the communication had no authority under current legislation to sanction Comcast over a 2008 Internet throttling incident. That defeat prompted the FCC to go back in an attempt to move broadband under its umbrella of regulated services. In a recent YouTube video commissioner Julius Genachowski stated that his intentions in moving to regulate broadband was to foster an environment that would encourage competition, lower prices, increase Internet speeds, and increase access to quality broadband.

Division on Capitol Hill

Regulation of any industry is seen as anti-business and a jobs killer by Republicans, See (Boehner slams FCC for ‘takeover of Internet’) while Democrats, See (FCC’s Democrat members rally behind Genachowski on broadband reform) see the need to regulate big business as more of a tool to reign in prices and create options for consumers. Both sides have points of contention from runaway mergers with resulting job losses, to a (hands off) approach, in letting the market determine competitive outcomes. Each thinks they are right, and while a healthy debate is stamped in our government system, the resulting stalemates can prove too problematic. It’s is time to work on a compromise, a win-win for all concerned, and if not, why not?

Regulatory Ramifications

The thinking of FCC commissioners center on the idea that the Internet has become a necessity for both consumers and businesses, like electricity, telephones, water, sewer which must be cultivated, tended too, and watched over as a “mother hen”, and its authority regarding our communications infrastructure should be regulated to ensure equality for all. It is just too important of an entity not to regulate, and it has the votes to do so. While it has the votes to create regulation without going through congressional approval, it will certainly be challenged in court over this authority again. See (FCC Understating Systemic Risks of “Third Way” — Why It’s a Disaster Waiting to Happen)

Is not regulation after all, a “slippery slope”, which does not distinguish between the inherent ramifications of mandating competition, pricing, access, and Internet speeds? Genachowski made the point that only six of forty-eight current Title II rules would be applied to broadband, See (Who’s more neutral? Republican bill would forestall FCC’s ‘Third Way’), leaving one to think lightness in regulatory oversight, but just the mention of future regulation sent broadband provider stocks tumbling on Wall Street.

Without any legislative update of the Title II rules for many years, the FCC is viewed as being forced to adopt its own rules for broadband which will promote its established agenda for the National Broadband Plan. Once you go down the regulatory path it is hard to pull back on the reins, and the FCC has taken those first steps. Be careful what you as for and what you do with it once obtained. It will be slippery and may turn into mud very quickly.

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