The FCC Did NOT Make the Internet a Public Utility

from Medium

Today the Federal Communications Commission voted 3–2 to approve of Title II-backed net neutrality regulations.

It’s a big and important day for the Internet. As I write this, advocates all across D.C. are celebrating. And they should! Not so long ago, after the D.C. Circuit ruled against the FCC in Verizon v. FCCmany pronounced that net neutrality was dead. Seriously?—?the spirit around the effort and the Internet was pretty moribund. See how many hyperlinks that was? I wasn’t joking.

The history of how “net neutrality came back from the dead” and the roles that the public, advocacy groups and companies (small and big) played in that revival will be important?—?and maybe will offer some great lessons as to the efficacy of online organizing.

But, before we get there, let’s try and set the historical record straight at the outset: by enacting and enforcing net neutrality regulations through Title II of the Communications Act and reclassifying broadband Internet access providers as “telecommunications services” under Title II, the FCC has not reclassified broadband Internet access providers as a public utility. (You may more commonly know broadband Internet access providers as Internet Service Providers/ISPs, or just Comcast & Verizon). That’s right: today’s vote didn’t make the Internet a public utility.

This point might be strained because the Internet has yet to really catch on to the whole idea nuance. But this distinction is pretty important. And it’s one that news organizations aren’t making.

Here’s a very quick, pictorial summary of building an ahistorical record (The Verge also has a nice summary):

More here.

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4 Responses to The FCC Did NOT Make the Internet a Public Utility

  1. Anthony Barley March 18, 2015 at 10:29 am #

    Matthew Wiebe’s article on the net neutrality was an important article for me because I wasn’t sire what the outcome of the FCC voting. For the past 2 weeks I have seen petitions voting against title II net neutrality regulations. One of the petitions I came acorss was through the popular microblogging platform and social networking website, Tumblr. Social media itself was quite conscious about what was going on and influenced people in voicing their opinion and signing the petition.

    Voters against the enforcing net neutrality regulations through Title II of the Communications Act and reclassifying broadband Internet access providers wanted a the internet to become a public utility. This is what all the petitions were depicted as through blogs, advertisements, and illustrations. Those not in favor of the regulations tried as much as possible to educate and familiarize users with what was going on under their noses.

    Under the Title II act there are parts in which act as utility- style regulations. It is easy to assume that a common carrier such as Verizon or Comcast is a public utility. They both provide the same service to the public but their not a public utility.

    What concerns me the most is the procedures that are not present in utility regulation. ISPs will not have to file tariffs. ISPs won’t be subject to intense, local “service of quality” scrutiny. They won’t have to unbundle and lease access to their network to competitors. The FCC doesn’t require contribution by ISPs to the Universal Services Fund, and there won’t be new taxes and fees. This means that there will not be any rate regulation taken place.

    We will have to see if what has been determined by the FCC vote is beneficial for the face of technology. This can shape technology in a harmful way, or a way we didn’t want it to go at all. We will have to look closely on the subject throughout the year and weigh the benefits and detriments of utility regulation.

  2. Jeremy Galvis March 20, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

    This is a great article pointing out the authority of the FCC and why it’s important. I have noticed that since this ruling, there is a huge misconception on what the FCC can actually do with their new found power over ISPs. It also surprises me how opponents to the ruling neglect the reason why the ruling was necessary in the first place. ISPs have essentially monopolized the market by not offering their service in cities together. For example in Philadelphia you are able to get Time Warner as an ISP, but not Comcast or Verizon. This is how it’s like in every major city in America and these are the three largest ISPs in the country. There are smaller ISPs that compete but can only offer an inferior product so they cannot compete effectively. Due to this lack of legitimate competition ISPs are running the show. With this ruling the FCC can prevent that.

    I would also like to point out that recently, when it comes to online journalism, a lot of websites will publish an article without doing any research. There seems to be some pressure to be the first ones “on the block” with news stories, and credibility suffers because of it. This isn’t some unemployed person’s blog either, these are “legitimate” news sources, as the article cites NY Times, CNBC, and The Hill. The saddest part is that this is the medium that is quickly becoming the largest source for all our news. I hope these large news agencies develop some new procedures for publishing news stories before they lose their status as “reputable.”

  3. Caroline Strickland March 20, 2015 at 8:59 pm #

    Frankly, I think that the only voices yelling against the FCC’s decision to move toward keeping the open internet open are the ones who see their plan to make huge sums of money to stuff their mattresses with fading away in time with the public’s outrage. Wheeler is really the plot twist in this whole scenario. . . Him being the former lobbyist and member of one of the big Internet Service Providers and suddenly joining sides with the public. He is out to keep it free. I admire also that he has made it very clear that he is aware that the old school regulation is so antiquated that it cannot even be applied to this process of keeping the internet free. I admire that he made it clear that they aren’t piling on regulation to the internet; in fact, that’s the exact opposite of what they want to do. He stressed that the FCC wanted to simply be the referee with the yard stick to keep the big-bad companies (I’m looking at you, ComCast) from making their bundles and bundles of money by shutting down the little guys on the internet with their big costs.
    As if they very proposal by the ISP’s weren’t enough, the fact that those same companies are protesting on the “side of the consumer” saying that continuing to embrace net neutrality will hinder innovation and investment, which will ultimately hurt the consumer is frankly insulting to the people who fought to keep net neutrality alive. However, we have to step back and remember that we just won the first battle. Admittedly, a huge battle, but there is still Congress–there are still ammendments and much more lobbying to be done before the battle for the internet’s soul is over. . . (Is that too dramatic? No, it’s really not.)

  4. Jtantalean October 8, 2015 at 1:39 pm #

    Net neutrality is a concept that says that service providers should allow access to everything on the Internet without being able to restrict or favor specific websites or products. According to the article, “net neutrality came back from the dead.” The FCC played a big role in this when they did not make the Internet a public utility; it was not made a commodity. A great amount of people argues that the Internet should be a public utility because they believe that everything on the Internet should be treated equally. Though the broadband Internet access providers were reclassified under Title II that did not reclassify it as a public utility. The FCC will further enforce the regulations that do not treat the Internet as a public utility.
    I have read an article by Nicholas Carr, who argues the Information technology, is becoming a commodity. I respectfully disagree that the Internet and any other form of information technology is not becoming a commodity. It continues to make tasks more efficient and easier as more innovators discover new ways to accomplish more tasks. I am also glad that they did not make the Internet a public utility.

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