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Washington entering talks on net neutrality

February 2nd, 2015


“The Federal Communications Commission is on the verge of releasing new, stronger network neutrality regulations,” writes Timothy Lee, senior technology editor at Vox. The rules are making headlines and have been causing more and more discussion nationally because the internet becoming a utility — regardless of how you feel on the details of the topic — is a massive shift in the engineering and ownership of the web.

The web neutrality issue starts at really two areas: 1) the procurement of mass media such as battles between Netflix and Comcast, and 2) the taxation and regulation of web business in general, at least to a greater degree. The second issue will likely not be a huge issue now, but it clearly the more important issue down the road.

However, naturally, when we’re talking people’s Netflix and their favorite TV shows, the first issue above is what will make the most noise, and since regulations of large companies like Comcast and Time Warner is going to shift a lot of revenue, special interests are going to get heavily involved and we’ve already seen some of that.

Most of the problems and debates stem from the incomplete ability of congress to get any of this done in 1996 when the FCC addressed some of these issues (or at least tried to), and Lee writes about this for Vox.

The network neutrality fight has been raging for more than a decade because current law, passed in 1996, is unclear about how the FCC should regulate the internet. At the time, the internet was a new technology and Congress was primarily focused on older telephone networks. So they wrote vague rules that effectively give the FCC broad latitude to figure out how to regulate internet access.

If FCC chairman Tom Wheeler establishes strong network neutrality rules in the coming weeks, as he is expected to do, these rules may not live much longer than Barack Obama’s presidency. If a Republican is elected to the White House in 2016, it’s a near-certainty that the new president will appoint a more conservative FCC chairman who will consider reversing many of Wheeler’s reforms.

Lee argues this is an issue because the whole point is that the government should be providing or at least supporting a stable environment for which the web can flourish.

The issue to many, will be whether or not this can happen without a serious undercutting of innovation and production — something the web has obviously been famous for.

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