Takeaway #1 from Free Press’ Latest FCC Filing

by Mike Wendy on October 14, 2010

The Free Press recently filed comments at the FCC regarding the agency’s open Internet proceeding.  Specifically, the Commission asked about the application of its proposed Net Neutrality regulations on “specialized” and wireless services.

The first takeaway from FP’s filing is this:  I’m baffled.  Why, you ask?

Well, it goes to the FCC’s current “reclassification” efforts, ostensibly to give the agency a “stronger legal foundation” for its proposed Net Neutrality regulations.   The agency wants to redefine Internet access into two separate services: an information service and a telecommunications service.

The current (Democratic majority) FCC needs to come up with this hocus-pocus because in 1996 Congress decided that the provision of information services should not be regulated as telecommunications services (like phone companies).  They are hampered by present FCC rules – derived in the last administration, after a series of proceedings earlier this decade – which mean that Internet access is more an information service than a telecommunications service.   Consequently, the resulting “unitary service” – though delivered via telecommunications – sits outside of regulation.

Stated quasi-mathematically, the FCC’s present “regulation” of Internet access is:

  • Internet access = information service
  • Information service = unregulated service
  • Network providers providing Internet access = unregulated service

But where FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski wants to go is:

  • Internet access = two separate services
  • Two separate services = information service & telecommunications service
  • Telecommunications service = regulation
  • Regulated telecommunications service = regulation of network providers

The Free Press wants to follow Julius.  Both believe that rules which regulate Internet access providers will best promote the openness and growth of the medium.

But a strange thing happened on the way to yesterday’s filing for the Free Press.  It seems that in their zeal to ensure that wireline and wireless network providers face similar, onerous Net Neutrality rules, they got “mixed up.”  In other words, they made a crucial “statement against interest.”  And that is (from their filing):

Internet users perceive no distinction between the Internet as accessed through mobile devices or wireline offerings…[Because] there is just one Internet…

Ooops.

That sounds like there’s just one type of service, not a split.   “Mathematically” speaking, it looks like Internet access = unregulated service.

But that’s just the opposite of what Free Press has been telling the FCC it must do.

So, what is it?

If consumers see no difference between two clearly different services to access the Internet, how can they perceive a difference between the offering of an information service and that of a telecommunications service to access the Internet?

I mean, who says, “I am accessing unregulated information services via my provider’s regulated telecommunications services”?  No.  Most Americans say, “I am using the Internet.”  Simple.  One offering.  Not the fiction created by the FCC and pushed by the special interests like Free Press to regulate the Internet.

Yet, if there is no separately cognizable telecommunications service – that is, if Internet access is really just one service and not offered as two – then the FCC’s going to have a hard time grabbing the brass ring of Title II / Net Neutrality / Third Way regulation to take over the Internet.

One can only hope that for once the Free Press is right – that Internet access (using the Internet) is really just one service.

How do you like that statement against interest?

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Maggie July 24, 2011 at 11:25 pm

You’re a real deep tiknher. Thanks for sharing.

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