Fresh from the Supreme Court of the United States’ decision upholding the FCC’s decision to permit cable companies to deny network access to rival ISPs, the Wall Street Journal reports (subscription required) today that the Commission’s new chairman is intent on providing phone companies ‘parity’ with the cable companies.
Translated in to plain English, that means the FCC is preparing to enable phone companies to bar rival ISPs from access to their networks, too.
It is the end of the Internet as we’ve known it.
But the ruling also opens the door for cable companies — and eventually their telephone rivals — to pick and choose what Internet content and services their customers get to use. Such control of Internet content by access providers would profoundly alter the nature of the Internet as an open, competitive and virtually limitless network. It’s up to Congress to ensure that it never happens.
Here’s why it matters:
The rub is that information services are not bound by rules that require them to provide unrestricted access to all content and services on the Internet. A cable company could theoretically cut a deal with an e-commerce site, say Walmart.com, and bar its customers from accessing a rival site such as Amazon.com. Or it could decide to block an online video service, such as MovieLink, because it competes with its own cable TV service.
Discrimination could take more subtle forms. A cable firm could provide speedy music downloads from a partner’s site, while slowing down those of a rival music service.
This fear isn’t just theoretical. Earlier this year, Madison River, a rural phone company that operates in four states, blocked its DSL customers from accessing Vonage, which enables people to make phone calls over the Internet. The FCC quickly intervened. It got Madison River to restore Vonage service and pay a fine.
The paper points out that the only reason the FCC was able to move on Madison River was because it was classified as a telephone service, rather than an information service.
What’s this got to do with fiber in Lafayette? It’s a core issue!
While Cox and BellSouth blather empty platitudes to competition and innovation, the fact remains that it is better to follow their actions, rather than their words. Their actions can be found in what they direct their lobbyists and attorneys to work to achieve. What they are working to achieve is the elimination of competition and, ultimately, the elimination of consumer choice.
Under specific and repeated questioning, LUS has repeatedly assured citizens that it will not engage in the kind of restrictive deals and practices that the cable and telephone companies are relentlessly angling towards.
And, back in the day, during the early phase of the Sock Puppets’ endless groping for something anything with which they could attempt to manufacture fear about the LUS project, they proclaimed that they wanted the network open. An Internet Protocol (IP)-based network with no restrictions on ports or restrictive commercial deals (like those that WILL be pursued by the incumbent phone and cable companies) IS an open network, because all services are migrating to Internet Protocol-based delivery.
The innovation of the Internet was driven by open access to networks by companies that were driven to differentiate themselves from the competition by driving new services to customers. As the courts and the FCC are making clear, ONLY LUS will offer Lafayette the open option!