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The Beginning of the End of the Internet?

Discrimination, Closed Networks and the Future of Cyberspace… Just over a month ago, Karl Auerbach asked, "Is the Internet Dying?”. Today, Commissioner Michael J. Copps, of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in a speech at the New America Foundation, is asking the very same question, "Is The Internet As We Know It Dying?" and warning about FCC policies that damaged media now threatening the Internet.

"The Internet as we know it is at risk. Entrenched interests are positioning themselves to control the network's chokepoints and they are lobbying the FCC to aid and abet them. The Internet was designed to prevent government or a corporation or anyone else from controlling it. But this original vision of the Internet may soon be lost. In its place a warped view that open networks should be replaced by closed networks and that accessibility can be superceded by a new power to discriminate is emerging."

"Our ill-advised Internet policy is only one piece of a tectonic shift across the whole range of FCC issues. From media to telecom to the Internet, we appear to be rushing toward breathtaking regulatory alterations. The Commission is permitting, even encouraging, competition to wither in the face of centralization. It is short changing its responsibility to protect the public interest."

The FCC may soon implement fundamental regulatory changes that would have deep and lasting effects on consumers, innovators, and business users. Copps: "Until now the big corporations that control Internet bottlenecks have been unable fully to capitalize on this power. But now we face scenarios wherein those with bottleneck control will be able to discriminate against both users and content providers that they don't have commercial relationships with, don't share the same politics with, or just don't want to offer access to for any reason at all. From the not so distant shadows of the past, old attitudes favoring industry consolidation and limited access are again seeking to reestablish themselves."

At issue are upcoming decisions at the FCC that will determine how much control companies will have over Internet access and their ability to discriminate against users, data, websites, or technologies. In the dial-up world, current protections require these companies to treat everyone equally. This equal treatment has contributed to enormous growth and innovation on the Internet. These decisions come on the heels of the FCC eliminating related media concentration protections. A federal court has stayed that decision, and Congress is now debating reversing it. In addition, on Monday, another federal court overturned aspects of the FCC's cable broadband policy.

Related Links:
- Press Release - FCC Policies that Damaged Media Now Threatening Internet [PDF]
- Remarks of Michael J. Copps Federal Communications Commissioner "The Beginning of The End of the Internet?" Discrimination, Closed Networks, and the Future of Cyberspace" [PDF]

By Jessica Rosenworcel, Competition and Universal Service Legal Advisor

Related topics: Internet Governance, Policy & Regulation, Web

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Comments

Re: The Beginning of the End of the Internet? Dustin  –  Oct 10, 2003 4:36 PM PST

Vendors will soon be beating down the doors of service providers with new backbone and access gear that will allow a level of control over traffic never before thought possible. This new gear will slide into place to help prevent the flood of traffic generated by worm propagation and for other mom and apple pie reasons. Then later the service providers will realize that this fine degree of control over all traffic will give them power, which they will then abuse. Expect the end shortly after that. The first exchange in this battle has already occurred. The call for neutral networks has resulted in resounding report of self-regulation from the cable broadband providers.

Anecdote. Recently while visiting DC I spoke big national ILEC policy person that told me they supported network neutrality. I asked if they would ever discriminate against traffic that offered a service that competed with a similar offering of their own. Certainly not was the immediate and believable answer. I asked if they would make access to traffic enhancement technology like QOS part of this strictly neutral regime. You guessed it, they did not feel that was needed. I did not bother to explain to him how that would be a form of traffic discrimination. You can draw your own conclusions on the meaning of this dialog.

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