Telecommunications Policy

A Non-Specific Net Neutrality Proposal

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This morning, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced that the FCC would vote on Net neutrality rules at its December 21st meeting. In a speech, he outlined the basic shape of the proposal, but didn't provide much in the way of specifics.

Matthew Broderick discovers the series of tubes.

Here's what we do know. Wireless won't be subject to the same strict rules as wireline service, though it may have some lighter restrictions placed on it. The FCC will propose rules under its Title I authority, so the most drastic option—a Title II reclassification that would have imposed legacy telephone-style rules on the Internet's infrastructure—appears to be off the table for now. That option had been floated earlier this year after a judge ruled that the FCC's proposed justification for regulating Net neutrality under Title I wouldn't fly.

So how does Genachowski figure the FCC will regulate under Title I if a judge has already ruled that the agency doesn't have the authority to do so? The wiggle room here comes from the fact that although the judge said that the FCC's justification was no good, he also left room for the FCC to attempt to justify its authority some other way—which is probably what the FCC will try to do when the rule is ever challenged.

And if the rule passes at the end of this month, sources close to the Commission tell me it's a virtual certainty that it will eventually be challenged in court. But given that the FCC made a very serious effort to justify its authority last time around, and still failed, there's no certainty that the agency would win.

So why go for it? As Larry Downes, a Fellow with the Stanford Law School Center for Internet & Society, writes, one reason may be that the impending change of power in the House forced Genachowski's hand

This was Genachowski's last chance to wrap up the proceedings before the new Congress, with its Republican House and more even Senate, clocks in.  Republicans on their own don't have the votes to pass legislation that would have blocked the FCC from voting on net neutrality later, but Republican leaders had threatened to use their oversight authority to put additional pressure on the FCC not to enact new neutrality rules.

Net neutrality was an Obama campaign promise, and although it was never an issue that motivated a large number of voters, it has remained important to a small but vocal class of progressive activists. And those activists have continued to press the FCC and the Obama administration to pursue additional regulation.

But progress on the issue has stalled since the court's ruling earlier this this, and as a result it's become a drag on the agency's agenda. At this point, it seems clear that both the FCC and the White House are interested in moving on. But they still need to appease the base and make some effort to check off the Net neutrality box on the campaign promises list. That may shed some light on why the White House, which has already released a statement in favor of the measure, seems so interested in building support and getting this passed quickly.

As Downes explained in an email to me, "The Chairman may be fully aware that a Title I rulemaking will lead to expensive protracted litigation the Commission is unlikely to win, but may be willing to do it anyway just to get Net Neutrality off his plate." In other words, we may be in for a protracted legal battle just so the administration can save face.

Lots more on Net neutrality here and here

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  1. What won’t these people do?

    1. Go right through Falken’s maze?

  2. XYZZY.

  3. Good Grief. Some moron could put forth a proposal that everyone get a pineapple shoved up their asses on alternating Tuesdays, and as long as they put a spiffy name on it, something like the “Happy Tuesday Guaranteed Act” there would be morons out there in favor of it.

  4. As long as we name the bill, All Your Base Belong To U.S.

  5. PLUGH.

  6. Regulation here is an exercise in futility, so bring it on. In your lifetime, wireless will render obsolete the DNS, the ISP, and the cell network. It’s gonna be a beautiful thing.

  7. You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.

    1. I had, and think I still have, a color hand drawn map for Zork (I realize you are talking about Colossal Cave Adventure, but they’re similar).

      1. When we’re in our late 200s, kids are going to hear about our text adventures and wonder at the primitiveness of it all. Like my grandmother telling me about riding a horse-drawn wagon to elementary school and living (when very young) without electricity.

        Shit, by then, the kids will probably be illiterate and not even be able to visualize a text-based game.

        Ever play that old ASCII Star Trek game? I loved that back in the day.

        1. My dad would only let me play the Star Trek game on his IBM AT on special occasions, but I asked to every chance I got.

          1. When I first played it and Colossal Cave, I was playing on a TI Silent 700 (using an acoustical coupler to access Dad’s mainframe at work). That terminal didn’t have a monitor but used thermal paper (in rolls) for the display. Which ran about $10/roll. So my access was pretty limited, too. Crazy times.

            We paid whole quarters to play Pong when it started showing up as a video game machine in the 70s. That’s like $50 in modern money.

            1. I had games for my TRS80, but they were Missile Command and Chess. I played a lot of chess. My parents weren’t too keen on games.

              1. The first computer we had was a Tandy Color Computer. Sometime later, I recall we had an Atari 400, and I was messing around with BASIC, 3D Tic Tac Toe, and an awesome game I’ll never forget, called Star Raiders. I ended up frying that computer when my parents were out one evening by trying, maybe a bit too creatively, to hook up a set of wireless joysticks that we couldn’t get to work.

              2. That’s just wrong.

                Did you use the TRS-80 with the cassette tape storage?

                1. Addressing Episiarch’s anti-gaming parents.

        2. When we’re in our late 200s, kids are going to hear about our text adventures and wonder at the primitiveness of it all. Like my grandmother telling me about riding a horse-drawn wagon to elementary school and living (when very young) without electricity.

          Madness and the Minotaur was my favorite as a kid. Never could figure the fucking game out (though some people are still trying).

  8. Copy editor?…copy editor?

  9. I’m still amazed at the fucking idiocy of people who believe that further empowering the government agency that most commonly engages in censorship could help protect speech from some hypothetical corporate censorship. Then I remember how much they whine about Citizen’s United, which was explicitly about a case of government censorship, and I remember that they don’t actually care about rights at all, only about ensuring that the right guys are the ones violating them.

  10. thority some other way?which is probably what the FCC will try to do when the rule is eve

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