Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Net Neutrality (again)

We know you haven’t given much thought to the FCC since that whole kerfuffle with Janet Jackson’s nipple, but here they are in the news again.

The FCC, in its efforts to maintain the prized principle of net neutrality, suffered a blow at the hands of a U.S. appeals court earlier this year. The court said, in effect, that the FCC has decided that broadband providers are not common carriers, so the FCC itself can’t regulate them as such.

You might think the obvious response from the FCC would be to reclassify these broadband companies, so the FCC itself could regulate them, right?

Wrong. The FCC, instead, devised a much more cunning plan: They’re going to cave completely.
Their latest proposal is to allow broadband companies to give some content providers faster access than others, exactly what the big Internet companies want.

Writer A. J. Leibling famously said “Freedom of the press is guaranteed to those who own one.” For a while, it looked like the Internet could change all that. Anyone could publish articles, blogs, Web sites, even music and videos. There were no gatekeepers like publishers, TV networks, etc. to decide what you could or couldn’t see. For better or worse, Internet stardom was driven by likes, sharing and going viral. This is exactly what campaign finance laws have been trying to accomplish … limit the ability of big money to control the media.

But that’s all over now. Basically, the FCC’s proposed new rules are going to put control of culture back in the hands of big money. Amazon, Google and other big players can cut deals with Comcast, Verizon and other broadband providers that would, in effect, shut out any smaller players.

So speech is still free, but if you want anyone to listen, you better have plenty of simoleons.

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