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Net Neutrality Arguments Have Historical Echo

Mitch Wagner
3/9/2015

The year 1934 is repeating itself in the arguments over net neutrality today.

The FCC last month voted to regulate the Internet as a public utility, reclassifying broadband providers under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. Arguments by Republican opponents sound similar today to those raised by their predecessors 80 years ago.

Back in 1934, when Congress passed the Communications Act and created the FCC, "Republican lawmakers objected just as loudly, and with similar concerns," writes Rebecca R. Ruiz at The New York Times.

Senators Lester J. Dickinson (R.-Iowa) and Thomas D. Schall (R.-Minn.) called President Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration "desperate" and overreaching, and said the act was an attempt to "censor the press" by regulating telegraph companies and broadening the Radio Act of 1927, Ruiz writes.

"Only a united front by the press of the nation can halt this new plan to gag them," Dickinson said. "The newspapers of the United States must prevent the fourth attempt to Hitlerize the press of the nation."

US Senator Lester J. Dickinson (R.-Iowa)
US Senator Lester J. Dickinson (R.-Iowa)

I'm not sure opponents of the Communications Act were wrong, looking at the state of American media for the next 40+ years, when the FCC reigned supreme before the emergence of cable.


Find out more about broadband on Light Reading's broadband channel.


Oh, sure, "Hitlerization" is over-the-top. We never saw the kind of censorship in the US that we saw in Nazi Germany or the USSR.

But when the FCC had its strongest control over media, American TV networks produced a steady stream of pap, and their newsdesks provided similar news that seldom challenged the establishment.

My fear about net neutrality regulation is that it will lead to precisely the kind of big-company domination, stifling competition and innovation, that it was designed to avoid.

— Mitch Wagner, Circle me on Google+ Follow me on TwitterVisit my LinkedIn profileFollow me on Facebook, West Coast Bureau Chief, Light Reading. Got a tip about SDN or NFV? Send it to [email protected]

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Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
3/17/2015 | 11:26:08 AM
Re: It's just a question of who you want to be beholden to.
Fun fact: At a press conference given by FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai on the proposal before it was voted on, only about ten reporters were in attendance.

This for what people on both sides of the argument have called one of the biggest issues to ever come before the FCC.
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
3/17/2015 | 11:24:29 AM
Re: It's just a question of who you want to be beholden to.
One (among many) of the complications of the reclassification is a civil libertarian one: it allows the executive branch WAY more power with very little clarity as to what the limits are.

Forbearance is fine, but it is not exactly a pinky swear.

This is one of the reasons why some people are concerned -- and why they would have rather seen a legislative solution, whatever that solution would have been.
brooks7
brooks7
3/16/2015 | 4:17:42 PM
Re: It's just a question of who you want to be beholden to.
Except that we already have prioritization for video...its called cable.  And it is not affected by this ruling.

So, we did nothing as I said.  So, yes there is no problem except that ISPs have no reason to spend more money.  Which is the only actual problem.

How about this...Is any current problem or issue resolved by this?  Or any potential problem.

This is a wag of the dog.  Intsead of passing Universal Service we do nothing.  I don't care about Title II.  I do care about wasting time.

seven

 
mhhf1ve
mhhf1ve
3/16/2015 | 3:18:33 PM
Re: It's just a question of who you want to be beholden to.
seven,

The 400 page FCC rules weren't meant to address every issue that's a problem, nor was its aim to increase capex spending. That would probably take a bit more than 400 pages.

There are other mechanisms in the market that govern whether or not ISPs will invest in infrastructure. There aren't market-driven mechanisms that will prevent paid prioritization. 

As for universal broadband access, are you saying you would support the Title II reclassification if only it included USF? The FCC could have included it, but explicitly didn't.

And if this re-classification doesn't do anything.. then there shouldn't be a problem, right? If there was no paid prioritization before, it shouldn't hurt to make a rule saying that there shouldn't be any in the future. If there's no problem with how things were, then rules that keep things the same shouldn't be too controversial. What are AT&T/Verizon complaining about? 
brooks7
brooks7
3/16/2015 | 2:40:44 PM
Re: It's just a question of who you want to be beholden to.
mhhf1ve,

No, what I am saying is capex spending is not likely to increase because of this ruling and that is what is in the best interest of consumers.

Since Cogent admitted that they caused the Netflix problem and there has been no paid prioritization, we just regulated something that had not happened and done nothing about the issues (like universal broadband access) that actually matter.

seven

 
mhhf1ve
mhhf1ve
3/16/2015 | 2:01:45 PM
Re: It's just a question of who you want to be beholden to.
Seven, are you saying there will never be investments made in network infrastructure ever again? Oh my god. If only I had know that was the inevitable outcome.
brooks7
brooks7
3/16/2015 | 12:53:09 PM
Re: It's just a question of who you want to be beholden to.
"With Title II, the govt is trying to maintain some protection of consumers' interests."

So do you think network investment and competition is going to increase with Title II?  Isn't that what consumers want?

seven
Mitch Wagner
Mitch Wagner
3/16/2015 | 12:34:07 PM
Re: Naivety
We Google+ users are rough crowd. 
Joe Stanganelli
Joe Stanganelli
3/16/2015 | 12:16:23 AM
Re: Naivety
It's not all peaches and roses, alas.  Unfortunately, the problem with our system of democracy is tyranny of the masses.

True story: I got mulitple death threats once for criticizing Google+.
mhhf1ve
mhhf1ve
3/13/2015 | 10:24:26 PM
Re: It's just a question of who you want to be beholden to.
The great hypocrisy ... SOPA: Don't let the government regulate the Internet!
TITLE II: The government needs to regulate the Internet!

I don't think that's an example of hypocrisy... perhaps it's an example of how it's bad to reduce a political issue to a bumper sticker slogan?

For SOPA, the govt was regulating in a way that would not protect consumers' interests.

With Title II, the govt is trying to maintain some protection of consumers' interests.

There's no hypocrisy between supporting each issue -- when the context is given.
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