The FCC, The Telecoms, and You

by on Dec.03, 2010, under Articles, Computers, Internet, Technology

There are times when I hate capitalism…

Did the FCC just bless a capped, two-tier Internet by Nate Anderson (ArsTechnica.com)

So the basics to come out of this article is that the FCC has basically green lit everything the telecoms have asked for then turned to the people (you and me) and said “Look we know this could lead to bad things but we want to wait and see if it does, okay? Trust us.”

This feels like almost as much of a slap as when Google and Verizon came out with that joint Net Nuetrality proposal basically saying: Let telecoms do whatever they want with Wireless but force them to be transparent about it.

Now if viewed objectively, this is all very reasonable. The FCC, if looking long term, doesn’t really want to squash innovation. Plus FCC’s purview for the longest time has been television and radio, and now they find themselves defacto regulators of the internet because the telecoms hold the keys to the internet now.

They didn’t used to. AOL, Prodigy, CompuServ, and tons of other smaller local ISPs used to exist. The telecoms used to just assist by letting us call their modems. Then Telecoms realized they could oust the smaller ISPs offering internet over cable modems, and then direct T1-T# lines. It was a slow but successful takeover.

And while the backbone of the internet remains effectively “free”, the keys to doors that lead to it are now in telecom hands. And this would not be so bad if it was not for the fact that the telecoms are branching out and becoming content providers themselves, rather than just managing the lines they invested in.

And that last few words is the kicker. They invested in the lines. It took a ton of money to get everybody hooked up to the internet. Even though some of us are still running on 20 year old cable lines, they spent tons upgrading the infrastructure so they could lie to us about how much speed we get with our internet plans.

So capitalism dictates that they need to recoup their losses. And one of the best way to do this is to dabble in content providing. But this is obviously a conflict of interest. If say Comcast is providing episodes of your favorite show via their “managed service” on their lines, and Hulu wants to offer you the same show for free over the internet AND their lines, wouldn’t it be better for Comcast if Comcast just… slowed down Hulu’s bandwidth? Or perhaps something more insidious like charging usage based fees for internet access, but charging no fees for their personal video delivery service, making Hulu the more expensive option. Making anything on the internet more expensive.

It is AOL all over again.

And this is what I would like to keep from happening. But the FCC at the moment is asking me to wait and trust them, even though they’ve made no real signs, recently, of supporting my views, other than expressing “concerns”.

Now I admit I’m not the FCC. I’m not the most well informed person on this topic and I have a bias that tends to believe government agencies such as the FCC listen to industry lobbyists and their bribes more than they listen to my political action groups and their bribes because… well I can’t donate as much to my groups as Comcast and Suddenlink and AT&T can to theirs. But I really don’t like the FCC asking me to trust them.

But then, what else can I do?

My only hope is that, if worse comes to worse, someone will develop some new and better door to the internet that can bypass the telecoms completely before the telecoms purchase and implement the technology.

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