Saturday, November 22, 2014

There May Be Hope Yet

2014-07-14-opendoorbluesky1Over the past couple of weeks, I have been encouraged that there are more people discussing open-access infrastructure than before. Maybe it is because they have started to read Title II and realize that it is not the panacea once thought. By definition more government intervention/regulation means less freedom, and the hundreds of pages contained in the Telecommunications Act of 1934 is no exception. Title II is jam packed with regulations designed around telephone service in the 1930’s when we were under the control of the Bell System. Needless to say that it will control every aspect of our Internet services. The Internet was founded based on a loose federation of networks survivable if any one link disappears. It was meant so any node could reach and freely exchange information with another node. Even the technical aspects that the Internet was designed were not called standards or regulations, they are called Request for Comment that implies they are fluid and optional. Imposing laws and regulations on the Internet is contrary to its founding principles.

The FCC has indicated that if they impose Title II regulation, it will chose which parts to enforce. If you expect the FCC to exercise any forbearance of any section, you have not been living in America long. Bureaucracies live to grow and expand their power. Eventually piece-by-piece the FCC will implement parts of Title II over the years. Also included in Title II is the allowance of paid prioritization which is a no no for many net neutrality wonks. People that support this heavy handed move either are ignorant of what it will really means or have ulterior motives such as lobbying to influence control of the Internet for their business advantage (i.e. crony capitalism).

Thankfully some people are waking up and realizing what regulation will really mean to the Internet, and they realize that competition is the real solution to the yet to be encountered net neutrality issue. Karl Bode wrote an article yesterday on Techdirt that concluded that open-access broadband is a superior choice to regulation. Leo Laporte had a well-balanced panel discussion about net neutrality on TWiT that touched on the fact that competition would be superior to regulation. My neighbor to the north, Brett Glass, delivered intelligent arguments against regulation and for open-access on TWiT. These intelligent and technical discussions are ones that we should have had two years ago when net neutrality reared its ugly head. Broadband competition can be achieved if we remove the barriers that are preventing it from happening.

Fortunately there are solutions that can be adopted that eliminate the need for heavy-handed FCC regulation: open-access fiber infrastructure. I am not discounting other means of access such as wireless, but there are impediments to wireless access as well such as spectrum allocation which is also under FCC control. I have already extolled the virtues of open-access in other posts so I will refrain from being repetitive. Suffice it to say that there are a few different models for open-access. Network unbundling is the least favorite of mine but in a pinch that will work. Most of the incumbents don’t have fiber that deep into the network to make unbundling an option. We need to build fiber to every home and well as provide spectrum to do it as well. The FCC should be working to support those efforts and eliminate barriers for new and existing entrants that want to provide infrastructure. Working on some convoluted semi-regulation scheme is a fools-errand that will only lead to lawsuits and more complaining. Let’s work on providing a competitive broadband environment instead.