FCC Caving in on Net Neutrality – What Next?

net-neutrality-graphicsbank-FCCNew Orleans  OK, let’s get this straight.  Compared to other developed countries around the world in the United States we already have slower and more expensive internet, and few workable programs to assure equality of access.  Under a Democratic President though we should be able to expect some progress in this area though, right?  Instead we wake up to find that we have a Federal Communications Commission, that is now going to embark on a massive cave-in to corporate media concerns and move to allow the evisceration of “net neutrality,” despite the many FCC pledges to protect the internet and keep it free and open to all.  Pinch me now, this must be a nightmare.  This can’t be happening!

            But, it is. 

            This must be what happens when the President appoints a corporate communications lobbyist as the FCC chair?

            Just as a reminder of what we are on the verge of losing, if the FCC successfully eliminates net neutrality that means that the big cable and internet access companies, like the monopolists at Comcast, can create toll roads requiring companies like Amazon, Netflix, Google or others to pay them for faster access for their products than “regular” internet, and of course in jacking the costs to them, the costs to us will also rise dramatically, pushing monetizing universal access even farther away from equity and more towards income.   Google is trying to lay its own high speed optical networks to hedge against the Comcasts and their rising rates, but such networks will be built in certain cities, not everywhere of course.  Past the issues for consumers, the end of net neutrality means new, upstart tech startups won’t be able to afford the access that allows them to compete against the new, wannabe legacy companies like Facebook, Google, and the like.  Does any of this sound like a win for any of us

            Given this horror, is there any way that the FCC or the Justice Department could ever allow Comcast to consolidate control of cable access through its merger monopoly purchase of Times-Warner cable?  Rationally, we should think not, but it’s scary.  It looks like the fix is in, and when the fix it is in, it’s always about protecting the insiders and penalizing the outsiders, which means the rest of us.

            With all of the big internet moguls visiting the White House recently and repeatedly to complain to the President about the NSA, their lost business, and their weird views of the world and how it suits them, it’s impossible for me to believe the subject of a profound policy pivot on “net neutrality” or the Comcast merger, never made it to the agenda list.  I have a bad feeling that the Silicon billionaires may be talking out of both sides of their mouth and saying to their public that they want “net neutrality,” while signaling to the government that they are OK with it going its own way, as long as their companies are protected and the door is slammed behind them.

            This all just smells bad to me, and worse may be coming if we all become “Comcast country” as well.


New FCC Rules and Stopping Comcast

Fcc_logo1Edinburgh   Some things are certain today.  It will rain in Scotland, and Comcast will continue to quickly exercise monopoly power over the internet, almost making a mockery of the recently proposed “new” rules by the FCC to curb exactly these kinds of abuses.  Comcast and Netflix came to an agreement for Netflix to pay them more to insure faster and more reliable service to Comcast subscribers that are also Netflix members. 

The costs of course are expected to be passed on to consumers.  Absent a monopoly, we might wonder to whom, but since Comcast controls localized monopolies in service areas, customers have little choice but to have chosen them, so it will presumably mean Netflixers will pay more.  In a competitive environment different than what exists, Comcast might absorb some or all of such costs in order to attract more cable users, but, why bother as a monopoly.   All of which of course argues once again that the Department of Justice simply must act to prevent Comcast from controlling 40% of the internet broadband customers based on its territorial control.

The new proposed rules continue not to regulate the internet as the public utility that it has become, though they do open the door for increased local provision of cable service similar to Lafayette, Louisiana’s operation and the high speed programs installed by Google in Kansas City, soon Austin, and perhaps another 30 cities in active discussion.  Google’s local cable play is smart and decidedly a public service, but it is also a firm recognition of the same problem of cable and internet monopoly control by Comcast and others.  Helping cities expand local cable service is not really a public service for Google, but an act of self-protection to keep Comcast and its imitators from setting itself up as a toll collector on the internet highway for them and their search engines.  They are hedging against the Comcast monopoly even while the government is still silent about acting to prevent this expansion.

Comcast’s legions of lobbyists and governmental relations folks swamping nonprofits and others with torrents of cash to try and quiet any cries for justice now parrot their public relations line that they will follow the old rules, overturned by court decisions, until 2018 as a condition of their earlier acquisition of NBC/Universal with the FCC and extend that for Times-Warner.  Given their arrogant disregard of their commitment to lower the digital divide as part of the same deal for lower income families, there’s no reason to believe their intentions or implementation will be any better for these promises than those requirements.

If the FCC is ready to finally assert jurisdiction and tell state legislators, bought and leased by Comcast and its buddies, that they cannot stop local service provision, why not go the rest of the way.  The whole argument by the cable guys is that they spent billions to lay the lines, so they have the right to use them any way they want and charge whatever they can get away with.  The government should simply buy them out at a fair price or seize them through eminent domain as a public service they safeguard and assure for all citizens equally. 

Might be the best couple of billion we ever could spend to invest in all of our futures.