Reclaiming Broadband Rights: The Way Forward for the FCC

Tuesday's court ruling, which found that the Federal Communications Commission does not have jurisdiction over how internet providers regulate their service, has sent the FCC's national broadband plan back to the drawing board.

The plan, which was released last month, sought to provide broadband access to more of the country at better rates. Some of my criticisms of the plan around the time of its release were that it did not go far enough in ensuring wider access and that it risked hurting niche media outlets already threatened by larger competitors. Despite these flaws, the plan was one of the greatest opportunities to remedy the unequal distribution of information services that continues to exclude historically marginalized groups from the digital revolution. In an effort to appease lawmakers and the industry, however, the FCC's recommendations for combating the digital divide used language that made it seem their proposals were "optional."

Apparently, Comcast didn't want to go along with the FCC's option. Instead, they took the issue to a federal appeals court, which found that under current law, the agency cannot stop service providers from blocking sites. According to the court, broadband companies can decide to withhold content and services and also charge however much for those services they want. As The Economist's Democracy in America blog points out, this "rent-seeking behavior" could consolidate power in the hands of the providers and the bigger sites that can afford to pay for special services (and Comcast loves consolidation).

More importantly, the court's decision throws the FCC's entire plan into question, as the agency may no longer have the legal reach to implement its recommendations. As Computerworld's Grant Gross outlines, there are a number of ways forward for the FCC in implementing their plan for net neutrality, and one of these ways would be to redefine the place of broadband in the spectrum of telecommunications services. In light of Tuesday's ruling, we desperately need to update the laws so that they reflect the reality of the digital age: that broadband providers are telecommunications providers and should be regulated as such. According to the Wall Street Journal, "For broadband providers, the worst outcome would be if the FCC decided to classify broadband networks as common carriers under Title 2 of the Communications Act, which allows the federal government to control pricing and access as it does with landline telephone service." In order to make the broadband companies provide internet service at fair rates to less lucrative markets, "the FCC would essentially have to say it made a mistake when it deregulated Internet lines in 2002." It certainly did.

Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons, user Jonathunder.

Trusting your instincts is lazy: Poker pro Liv Boeree on Big Think Edge

International poker champion Liv Boeree teaches decision-making for Big Think Edge.

Big Think Edge
  • Learn to make decisions with the clarity of a World Series Poker Champion.
  • Liv Boeree teaches analytical thinking for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Stress is contagious. Resilience can be too.

The way that you think about stress can actually transform the effect that it has on you – and others.

Big Think Edge
  • Stress is contagious, and the higher up in an organization you are the more your stress will be noticed and felt by others.
  • Kelly McGonigal teaches "Reset your mindset to reduce stress" for Big Think Edge.
  • Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
Keep reading Show less

Five Hawks Down: watch the tragic migration of six Californian raptors

Tracking project establishes northern Argentina is wintering ground of Swainson's hawks

Image: @TrackingTalons / Ruland Kolen
  • Watch these six dots move across the map and be moved yourself: this is a story about coming of age, discovery, hardship, death and survival.
  • Each dot is a tag attached to the talon of a Swainson's Hawk. We follow them on their very first migration, from northern California all the way down to Argentina.
  • After one year, only one is still alive.
Keep reading Show less

5 short podcasts to boost your creativity and success

These quick bursts of inspiration will brighten your day in 10 minutes or less.

Personal Growth

Podcasts can educate us on a variety of topics, but they don't have to last an hour or more to have an impact on the way you perceive the world. Here are five podcasts that will boost your creativity and well-being in 10 minutes or less.

Keep reading Show less