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Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Pleased with Federal Court Smackdown of FCC Attempt to Compel Net Neutrality

I'm glad that the Federal Appeals Court in the District of Columbia slapped down the FCC's attempt to insist on net neutrality on the Internet.

Of the two manifest evils - government regulation of the Internet vs. corporate domination - government regulation is far worse and dangerous. It's an unconstitutional violation of the First Amendment. Government insistence on any mode of behavior carries with it the threat of arrest and imprisonment and force of arms against those who are not in compliance. The worst that a corporation can do is take your money. Not good, but not as bad as the worst that the government can do.

I'm therefore happy to see the unconstitutional FCC do less of anything.

As for net neutrality, we'll need to work for it via other means. To be clear, I'm no fan of Comcast, which directly benefits from today's ruling. I'm no fan of any of these cable corporate monoliths - I wrote op-eds against Cablevision's monopoly on cable service here in Westchester, New York, where I live (I supported Verizon's successful move to offer competing service) and took Cablevision and ABC to task when their haggling over money recently deprived us here in Westchester of several days of television.

But Americans benefit even more from today's ruling, by keeping the government out of our Internet.

But how, then, can we keep corporations such as Comcast and Cablevision from limiting and controlling our Internet options? Jeff Jarvis puts it well: "On the one hand, I do not want government regulation of the internet. On the other hand, I do not want monopoly discrimination against bits on the internet." Jarvis's solution: "we need to have a set of principles and standards we, the internet nation, can point to" - a Bill of Rights for Cyberspace. This is clearly an inexact, imperfect solution, but nonetheless preferable to the alternatives.

5 comments:

John Mantia said...

Thanks for your informed commentary on this recent ruling. I am a student at Fordham, and this is a somewhat confusing topic. Your explanation was really clear and to the point. I would like to hear more about how you think this debate should unfold.

Paul Levinson said...

Good to have your comment, John.

About how to proceed: I think people dissatisfied with monopolistic, high-priced cable service should encourage competition - the way Verizon is now providing competition to Cablevision in many part of the northeast. And in the event that any cable company tries to restrict Internet access, consumers should seek out another service, where possible.

As for the FCC, I would like to see a Supreme Court decision that strikes down the agency as an unconstitutional infringement on the First Amendment.

Robert Richards said...

Professor: Prof. Susan Crawford's summary of the FCC's revised net-neutrality proposal, at Berkman Center, may be of interest: http://j.mp/avgRaK

Paul Levinson said...

Thanks - I look forward to listening to the podcast later today.

Robert Richards said...

Professor: Berkman Center & Wharton held a conference about the FCC's revised net-neutrality proposal, & Congress's possible legislative approach, on May 26. Panelists discuss history & context of the issue, & the policy options. Video & audio are here: http://j.mp/avRqXM

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