Amazingly there is other news that just the constant and increasingly boring iPad stories.
That is if the fact that the FCC lost in the courts to Comcast is of interest as you tear yourself away from the App Store and put your wallet away. The general consensus is that it is a good thing that the FCC did lose because it is felt that the Commission was overstepping its bounds when it came to the Internet.
Of the two manifest evils – government regulation of the Internet vs. corporate domination – government regulation is far worse and dangerous. It’s an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. Government insistence on any mode of behavior carries with it the threat of arrest and imprisonment and force of arms against those who are not in compliance. The worst that a corporation can do is take your money. Not good, but not as bad as the worst that the government can do.
Lots of people seem upset by this, but they should not be. This is the right decision. The FCC was clearly going beyond its mandate, as it has no mandate to regulate the internet in this manner. In fact, what amazed us throughout this whole discussion was that it was the same groups that insisted the FCC had no mandate over the broadcast flag, that suddenly insisted it did have a mandate over net neutrality. You can’t have it both ways (nor should you want to). Even if you believe net neutrality is important, allowing the FCC to overstep its defined boundaries is not the best way to deal with it. So for those of you upset by this ruling, look at it a little more closely, and be happy that the FCC has been held back from expanding its own mandate. Otherwise, the next time the FCC tried to do something like the broadcast flag or suddenly decided it could enforce “three strikes,” you’d have little argument.
I’ve amended my proposed Bill of Rights in Cyberspace thanks to a suggestion in the comments from Jeff Sonderman: All data are created equal. I made that all bits are created equal, which broadens it somewhat and is quite relevant today in the discussion of net neutrality that will explode because of an Appeals Court decision in Washington that told the FCC it did not have jurisdiction to tell Comcast to stop discriminating on bits.
Here’s the rub: On the one hand, I do not want government regulation of the internet. On the other hand, I do not want monopoly discrimination against bits on the internet. I see it as a principle that all bits are, indeed, created equal. But how is this enforced when internet service is provided by monopolies? Regulation. But I don’t want regulation. But… That is the vicious cycle of the net neutrality debate.
Now as much as I, like Jeff Jarvis, would really like to see “Internet Equality” as a shining beacon the reality of the situation now and the road going forward is entirely different. Jarvis likes to point to the fact that all bits should be treated equal when in actuality it is the farthest thing from the truth. Broadband providers would like to have us believe that Internet phone service is different from web access and content delivery and is different yet again from television delivered over the net for which they charge us three different prices.
Can we say double-dipping or maybe more appropriately triple-dipping?
Any digital data that travels over any kind of delivery system is all the same ones and zeros. There is no difference as far as the pipe is concerned folks no matter how hard they try to convince you otherwise.
That is the most basic principal of what everyone calls Net Neutrality – all the bits in the pipe are the same. There is no telephone bits, no television bits and no Internet bits.
The problem that the broadband providers have if this argument becomes the accepted norm is that they then can’t charge us the consumers three different fees and different rates based on some illusion of there being any differences. They also can’t cry wolf when they claim that video is killing their networks because those video bits are the same ones and zeros that make up the phone or television bits.
Up until now though Comcast and the other major broadband providers have been held in check by the mere threat of FCC intervention. They’ve had to play nice with the consumer and make it appear as if that they are benign gatekeepers but don’t kid yourself they are only bidding their time and today’s court decision will have far reaching consequences. Consequences that the consumer is going to be on the receiving end of.
Don’t get me wrong I am really hesitant of any government agencies getting involved with any type of regulation of the Internet. We only have to look to France and England to see where that road leads. However if anyone thinks that Comcast and other providers aren’t popping the champagne corks over this announcement .. well .. you’re a fool.
And trust me – we’ll be paying for all that champagne .. one way or another.