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.

LinkedIn meets Tinder in this mindful networking app

Swipe right to make the connections that could change your career.

Getty Images
Swipe right. Match. Meet over coffee or set up a call.

No, we aren't talking about Tinder. Introducing Shapr, a free app that helps people with synergistic professional goals and skill sets easily meet and collaborate.

Keep reading Show less

Can the keto diet help treat depression? Here’s what the science says so far

A growing body of research shows promising signs that the keto diet might be able to improve mental health.

Public Domain
Mind & Brain
  • The keto diet is known to be an effective tool for weight loss, however its effects on mental health remain largely unclear.
  • Recent studies suggests that the keto diet might be an effective tool for treating depression, and clearing up so-called "brain fog," though scientists caution more research is necessary before it can be recommended as a treatment.
  • Any experiments with the keto diet are best done in conjunction with a doctor, considering some people face problems when transitioning to the low-carb diet.
Keep reading Show less

If you want to spot a narcissist, look at the eyebrows

Bushier eyebrows are associated with higher levels of narcissism, according to new research.

Big Think illustration / Actor Peter Gallagher attends the 24th and final 'A Night at Sardi's' to benefit the Alzheimer's Association at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on March 9, 2016 in Beverly Hills, California. (Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images)
  • Science has provided an excellent clue for identifying the narcissists among us.
  • Eyebrows are crucial to recognizing identities.
  • The study provides insight into how we process faces and our latent ability to detect toxic people.
Keep reading Show less

Want to age gracefully? A new study says live meaningfully

Thinking your life is worthwhile is correlated with a variety of positive outcomes.

Surprising Science
  • A new study finds that adults who feel their lives are meaningful have better health and life outcomes.
  • Adults who felt their lives were worthwhile tended to be more social and had healthier habits.
  • The findings could be used to help improve the health of older adults.
Keep reading Show less