Former FCC Chairman Powell Says Net Neutrality 'Doing Great' - Now, Here's the Reality!

Feb 23, 2006 | Inside: Regulation & Policies

Posted by Jack Comments | Print | Email

Yesterday Networking Pipeline reported that former FCC chairman Michael Powell thinks that Net Neutrality is ‘Doing Great’. Of course, this is the same person who was also reported as saying that we have too much choice in the media. Yes, there are people who thought we were all better off when we only had three networks to choose from. Sometimes I think there is a fine line between nostalgia and dementia.

Anyway, coming back to the real world, network neutrality. One thing these gentlemen are calling attention to is that Verizon Wireless is already trying to create a non-neutral network insofar as their customers are concerned, only they are going the legal route, a.k.a. the EVDO terms of service (TOS). Rick points out that these contain “onerous restrictions” including a ban on the use of “Voice over IP (VoIP)” (among several other things).

Now, if we had more than one nationwide provider of wireless broadband, this might not be so much of an issue. But folks, it looks right now as though unless something changes, Verizon may become the only provider that has virtually nationwide wireless broadband. Sure, there will be wireless “hot spots” here and there, but only Verizon will be saying something to the effect of, “get an account from us and you can use your broadband (but only in ways we deem appropriate) wherever you travel.”

Michael Powell would probably love this situation—who needs all those choices anyway—but as Rich notes, ”... I don’t want them telling me when I can do it, why I can do it, etc. Frankly I am surprised that this hasn’t caused an uproar on the web. Is anyone other than Fred and me concerned about such terms of service?"

Fred, I think a lot of us are. I know I am, but I also know that many of us feel a bit powerless because we can’t throw bribes campaign contributions at politicians like the big phone companies do. And when we go to vote, it seems like all the politicians are feeding at the same trough. If anyone can figure out a way to put an end to this unholy alliance of politicians, lobbyists, and big corporations (without resorting to violence, or anything illegal), I think many of us would be in.

One point I will make is that in a roundabout way, allowing network neutrality to be eroded could wind up being a dangerous thing for the politicians. It’s a known fact that if you can distract the public with amusements, and if they have enough to eat (the phrase “bread and circuses” comes to mind), you have far less social unrest. Today the television set and the Internet are our “circuses”, and they are messing with both—TV through the switch to HDTV, and along with that, additional content and usage restrictions to placate the entertainment industry, and now if the phone companies have their way, people will not be able to do the things they really want to do (and have been doing heretofore) on the Internet. Oh, and the price of bread is going way up too, thanks to the fuel price increases. I don’t know, but if I were a politician I think I’d want to keep the Internet as wide open as possible, just in the interest of self-preservation! 

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