President Obama has made broadband a key part of his telecommunications agenda. To get there, he has tasked the Federal Communications Commission with the responsibility to make changes to Internet regulations and promote his “National Broadband Plan,” an ambitious effort to reform the industry and expand broadband access across the country.
There’s an elephant in the room however, and it’s name is Comcast. The telecommunications company is challenging the FCC’s authority on Internet regulation in court, and if successful it could seriously inhibit the agency’s efforts to move its plans forward. Comcast’s beef goes back to 2008, when the FCC censured the company for its bandwidth-throttling efforts against BitTorrent and others.
If the court rules in Comcast’s favor, the FCC may lose the necessary powers it requires in order to shift spectrum from television companies to wireless providers in order to advance broadband access. The agency also has other options, including reclassifying Internet service under more tightly regulated telephone service laws, but even that isn’t fraught with trouble.
Telecommunications companies would no doubt be unhappy that they wouldd be required to share lines with their competitors, and we all know that probably means lawsuits. It would also mean Internet providers would have to accept quite a bit more regulation then they’ve been used to. More lawsuits. All in all, the Comcast case really seems to hold the key to Obama’s broadband plans.
Personally, I find it sad that it has come to this to decide whether this country really gets serious with high-speed Internet access. I know among the more conservative readers on here, government regulation is not very popular. But its a simple fact in this capitalist society that the almighty dollar is what companies are most interested in. Regulation does put a crimp on profits, and I believe nobody can really argue that.
We’re getting to the point where the Internet is no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity. At that point, regulation of the industry is necessary in order to ensure that it is accessible by all, rather than only where it is the most highly profitable. Of course, its not going to be as profitable for a company to offer Internet access in rural North Dakota as downtown Los Angeles.
But should access be determined by geographical location, or potential profit margins? Therein lies the argument. And now it appears a court case in Washington, DC could possibly set the course of broadband access for years to come.