As a former broadcaster, I’ve been watching the disagreements and flow of bad information over the recent maneuverings by the Federal Communications Commission to fashion new rules for the Internet. They have tried before to regulate the Internet only to be shot down by the courts for lack of legal foundation and missing logic.
The underlying question I can’t seem to answer is why. Why is this appearing now? The timing seems odd and I must have missed the economic reasons why some big users of the Internet pipes are pushing this now. I assume large Internet service users believe they’ll improve their incomes through an FCC approved method of regulating the commerce of the Internet. And what is the problem the FCC is trying to address?
The question and concern seems to be, will this proposed regulation leave smaller and start-up organizations at an unfair and economic disadvantage? There are a lot of petitions flying about the Internet requesting anti-rule signers. Most of those I’ve read take an extreme gloom and doom position, predicting that if the rule is passed, innovation and the creating of new apps and companies will die. Really?
A little history. In 1934, after long and sometimes acrimonious debate, the Congress passed the Communications Act, establishing broadcasting rules for the nation. If readers of this blog think the Internet is like the wild west, you should have heard radio in the USA in the 1920’s. Apart from the rabid blasphemous peudo-religious rants and the sale of dangerous and even lethal potions and drugs, anybody who wanted to could set up a tower and a broadcasting operation on any frequency they wanted. The result was total chaos.
When the FCC was created as a part of the 1934 Communications Act, a lot of the chaos went away—eventually. In the development of the act, foundations, civic groups and many educational institutions across the country made strong logical representations to the regulators, the Congress, that a number of radio and television channels should be reserved for the direct use of the public, and thus, the foundations for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio and the Public Broadcasting and a whole host of educational broadcasting enterprises were born and fostered. The people of American have been educated and enriched tenfold by the production and programming of non-commercial educational broadcasting over the past fifty-plus years.
So, why can’t the FCC use the history of the Communications Act of 1934 to fashion some amendments to the Act to solve whatever problems have developed. And, again, what are the problems this new Rule is designed to address?