As the U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit starts analyzing arguments on whether the FCC has the authority to enact its controversial Net Neutrality regulations (in Verizon v. FCC), they’re going to hear from one group of commenters who finds it especially galling that Verizon believes it has First Amendment rights to speak via its private property as it sees fit, free from the prior restraint of government speech regulation.
What really gets under the skin of the commenters is Verizon’s contention that while the company indeed carries Internet communications, it should also be considered an editor of communications – with the latter meaning the FCC’s rules must fail because they unreasonably impinge on the ability of networks to speak or offer communications services in a manner of their choosing.
As these anti-private property commenters see it, communications networks shall do one thing: Transmit the Internet’s communications. Only. Nothing more. Ever.
Consequently, for the Internet to remain open and “free,” the commenters believe the only way this can occur is for the government to regulate networks into submission, duct-taping their mouths shut, keeping them mute, supine and in servitude to all – but especially so to huge corporate edge providers, which use, exploit and adversely possess the private communications networks (they so loathe) to the ostensible benefit of consumers and the public interest.
It is a fallacious, “you shall be one thing and only that” argument, which does not comport with the reality that is the Internet and its diverse ecosystem. (The edge certainly doesn’t play by those rules. Why should networks?)
In compelling who may access and speak over a network provider’s lines, the FCC’s Net Neutrality order forbids network providers from being all they might want to be. Sure, “traditionally” communications carriers just carried the communications of its users. But in the age of Internet convergence – where vibrant competition and the advance of technology mean “traditional” service bounds no longer apply – “carriers” must be allowed to be more.
Right now, however, the FCC’s rules keep Verizon and other similar network providers in a 19th Century box, saying to them, “You’re carriers only.”
If we want Internet providers (yes, all) to “disrupt” and evolve, companies like Verizon should be able to both carry the communications of others AND choose to speak or offer other types of communications services, too. They should be allowed to be more like the Internet’s edge providers, where its most competitive players have vertically integrated their offerings, such as applications, services, content, devices, and transmission networks.
Who knows what those innovations might look like? But, ossifying Internet innovation via specious restrictions so that only the edge may fully innovate clearly fails to serve the public interest.
The Court should toss out the FCC’s Net Neutrality regulations.
The commenters and their corporate funders, all of whom purport to reside somewhere in the progressive future, seek to peddle a false economy. By insisting that Verizon and the other network providers remain in their place, locked to the past, they’re really just saying “Shut the heck up, and don’t compete with us.”
They’re really just saying, “We own the Internet and no one else.”
This benefits no one but the commenters and their overlords. It certainly does not befit the wildly competitive Internet and its continually evolving ecosystem.