New Orleans The battleground is clear, so let’s hope that the contending forces are ready for a slugfest rather than a fake pillow fight. The FCC in a 3-2 vote put the chairman’s two-tracked proposal for a faster “pay for streaming” lane up for formal discussion and comment before a final vote in several months.
Sadly, President Obama ran for the hills before the battle is more deeply engaged, saying that he is 100% for net neutrality, but is going to leave it to the FCC to figure out how to achieve it. To my lights this is a little like saying him saying that he wants to end poverty, but doesn’t really want to do anything about it. Once again it’s important to remember that hope is not a plan.
Supposedly all the big tech companies and most of Silicon Valley are with us on this one, but I have to wonder how deep their commitment is and how much they are really willing to bring to the fight. As much as they profess to believe in innovation in the future, most of them are pushing and shoving to become the “legacy” companies of the high tech industry and for business, no matter what they say, very few ever welcome competition. If any of you have any doubt, just read Walter Issacson’s fanboy biography, Steve Jobs, or look at the settlements on price fixing on e-books and then tell me that’s it’s going to be all right. I think we will certainly see some fancy footwork on the canvass and shadow boxing, but real upper cuts and body blows, I’m not sure about any of that.
Meanwhile the companies are already moving to the next fight, reclassification as a public utility, rather than wasting time on the slow lane/passing lane division of the internet and the arguments about net neutrality. Verizon, Comcast, AT&T and the rest are more than happy to let the FCC take one for their team on net neutrality, while they train their big guns at any real regulation which would come if they were finally properly classified as utilities, which few doubt is already the reality. On this the companies are all in agreement. According to the Wall Street Journal speaking of Verizon, “…the telecom giant didn’t address that issue but it did say it would fight any proposal to regulate the Internet like a utility. Comcast and other major broadband providers, including AT&T, echoed those concerns.” Their industry association which is of course led by a previous chair of – yes, you guessed it – the FCC, Michael Powell, General Colin Powell’s son, issued a half-dozen bullying threats if the FCC even imagined having the backbone to finally regulate the internet as a utility, you know, like telephones and electricity.
Here was a chance for the President and the White House to finally lead, not desert the field, but it looks like we going to have to fight the war to keep the internet accessible and affordable with the ragtag army we have, rather than the champions that we need.