Whatever happened to a thing called fairness?
In a recent decision in Federal court the FCC’s Open Internet rules were struck down following a lawsuit brought by Verizon.
The FCC’s Open Internet rules, popularly known as Net Neutrality, state that all Internet traffic has to be treated the same, and that access to the Internet meant access to any website.
What Verizon and other broadband companies were hoping to get, and then DID get, was to have the FCC regulations dropped pursuant to their argument that broadband internet is not a common carrier and should therefore be free of burdensome government regulations.
Which brings me to my point: The FCC uses your tax dollars to watch porn.
Stay with me.
The whole Net Neutrality argument has been happening behind the scenes for a few years now and you can go ahead and blame your Netflix binge watching for kicking the whole thing off.
The people who provide Internet access, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are bound by federal regulation to treat all Internet traffic equally. This means if you can get on the Internet, you can go anywhere on the Internet. The idea that the Internet is a broad plane of information, accessible to anyone, is (according to the ISPs) an outdated and incorrect view.
Case in point: Netflix.
While there is some discrepancy in the exact numbers, the online traffic generated by Netflix is equal to everything, everywhere, throughout the whole of human history.
It’s a lot.
So the ISPs want to charge Netflix, and others, to deliver its content but also to be able to charge consumers to receive said content, since it sucks up a disproportionate amount of their bandwidth.
Following the court’s decision Verizon released a statement on Wednesday saying that “One thing is for sure: today’s decision will not change consumers’ ability to access and use the internet as they do now.”
You know once the guys with all the money start saying that “nothing is going to change,” everything is about to change.
Net Neutrality advocates are concerned that the Internet is going to start looking like cable TV. If you only pay a little money you can only get a few web pages; pay a few more dollars a month for premium pages like Netflix or Facebook, pay even more money a month for exclusive access to the really GOOD web pages, not those piddly, poor people web pages.
You can see how this would be a problem for poor people, nonprofit groups and startup businesses that cannot pay for premium availability or speeds.
Which brings me back to the porn watching FCC.
When the FCC was created back in the 1930s it regulated where people could start a television or radio station, what kind of signals would be adopted, and just how long a shock jock morning drive time radio show should last (four hours, six if there is a hilarious side-kick).
Slowly but surely the regulatory power of the FCC has been eroded through court decisions and people generally not caring so long as they got to watch TV whenever they wanted. Arguably the FCC’s biggest loss of power came in 1987 when it lost the ability to enforce the Fairness Doctrine.
The Fairness Doctrine said that, any TV station discussing a controversial issue was required to present the opposing viewpoint. So, you’re talking about why the President is ruining the country with a new war? Now you have to show someone talking about how the new war is exactly what the country needs.
After a Supreme Court Case in 1987 (Syracuse Peace Council v FCC) the FCC abolished the Fairness Doctrine. This significantly shortened their list of duties to pretty much ensuring common access to telecommunications, and making sure nobody said any bad words or took their clothes off on TV.
Well, they just abolished the last vestige of the common access portion of their duties (radio having been deregulated in 1996 and cable TV eliminating most of the FCC’s regulatory footing) so what’s left?
It would seem that now, aside from repairing some radar dishes and Morse code stations, the FCC has dedicated themselves solely to the act of catching lewd or inappropriate behavior on TV, then fining the person or station responsible.
And this cannot stand.
Our tax dollars are being spent by faceless bureaucrats who spend all day channel surfing, hoping to catch some illicit activities on television AND YET I have to go to work at a regular job? Every day? Talk about your Unfairness Doctrine.
I think making a tiered Internet is a bad idea and it would put the poor and startup companies at a marked disadvantage. And now, pursuant to the Fairness Doctrine, I will present the opposing viewpoint.
If you have to spend more money to post content online, then Facebook can start charging those stupid Bitstrips and meme generator websites even more to appear on my newsfeed, which will force them to disappear. Case closed.
Clearly, both sides make solid arguments. But you decide; I’m going to head over to the FCC’s website and see about a job opening.