Josh Silver of Free Press and the Save The Internet campaign weighed in on U.S Court of Appeals ruling that I posted about yesterday. He points out the challenge ahead for the FCC and the potential implications of this decision for net neutrality and a U.S. national broadband plan:
The court decision essentially means that the government agency that is charged with overseeing the nation's communications infrastructure now has no authority to regulate broadband -- the 21st century's primary communications platform. As a result of this decision, the FCC can't stop Comcast and others from blocking Web sites. And the FCC can't make policies to bring broadband to rural America, to promote competition, and to protect consumer privacy or truth in billing.
The FCC used to have jurisdiction in this area but under intense pressure from phone and cable companies, the Bush FCC chose to reclassify broadband as an "information service" instead of a "communications service" that provides strong regulatory oversight of traditional telephone services.
So what's next?
The FCC needs to change broadband back to a "communications service," which is where it should have been in the first place. By reclassifying broadband, all of these questions about authority will fall away and the FCC can pick up where it left off. But that is going to be a big lift and we need a huge show of force to give the FCC the public support it needs to make it happen.
Being Canadian, my mind immediately jumps to the CRTC -- our national regulatory agency for communications. As I mentioned previously, I don't think that the CRTC is without its problems -- partisan appointees and the like -- but I do prefer it to the virtual communications monopoly that is currently in place in Canada.
This isn't a rant out "evil corporations:" it's about competition and consumer choice. Monopolies don't deliver either.
Canada's global broadband ranking -- according to the OECD -- continues to drop (ranked behind Mexico and Poland at one point) and Canadians pay more than people in other countries for less bandwidth and lower speeds. This at a time when other countries are mandating broadband access as a legal right. And this isn't just an issue for "consumers:" How will Canadian businesses remain competitive on a global stage when working with slower speeds and higher prices?
Far from a "political boondoggle," the CRTC for all its warts has a process that is -- at least in theory -- accountable to the Canadian public. And, if the Canadian democratic process works, the problems in the CRTC can be fixed.
P.S. Here are a few other good summaries that get into more depth on the U.S Court of Appeals ruling and implications for the FCC: