FCC action needed to limit power of service providers


The Appalachian Online

Kevin Griffin

With the FCC’s Feb. 26 reclassification of  broadband Internet as a utility, net neutrality advocates won an important victory, at least for the moment.

The decision has caused anxiety for Internet service providers, or ISPs, and companies will likely try to sue because of the decision, according to the New York Times.

Some Americans, influenced absurd right-wing talking points, have come to view net neutrality as synonymous with a government takeover of the Internet.

These claims could not be further from the truth. These regulations are aimed at ISPs, not the Internet itself. Specifically, their purpose is to prevent ISPs from blocking content, throttling certain Internet content, or paid prioritization, which is the practice of making deals with content providers to prioritize certain content, according to an FCC statement.

I sympathize with those who have honest concerns about too much government involvement in anything related to the Internet. No one wants the government to have the ability to interfere with non-criminal Internet content.

This is not what this decision does. In fact, in the absence of regulation, it is easy to see how many companies could threaten access to Internet content.

Take the case of paid prioritization. Allowing companies to make deals with certain content providers to speed up their content could put the ISPs in the position of censor.

Add that possibility in with the depressing fact that many Americans lack choice in Internet providers. A December study from the U.S. Commerce Department’s Economics and Statistics Administration found that, for speeds equal to or higher than 25 Mbps, only 37 percent of Americans have two or more service options.

With the relative lack of access combined with the power to manage Internet content, it is not difficult to see how the ISPs could possess unwarranted power.

Being split between the government and ISPs is not a pleasant situation. Given too much power, either institution could exercise unwarranted control.

Yet, we still have have both ISPs and the government so we have to work out an arrangement that is favorable to Internet users. Government regulation of this type works toward that purpose.

Of course, we should be vigilant of types of government regulation of the Internet. Government regulation has a specific purpose and we should make sure it is confined to that purpose.

If the government just sticks to regulating ISPs to preserve open Internet, we should be fine.

Griffin, a junior journalism major from Madison, is an opinion writer.

STORY: Kevin Griffin, Opinion Writer