Stop the Secrecy

Medium: This is how you create change

Fri, 01/23/2015 - 12:43 -- Eva Prkachin

Why the sudden turn-around on the Internet slow lane debate in the U.S.? It's simple: Internet users spoke out. 

Article by Susan Crawford for Medium

Five years ago, when the Obama administration was still wet behind the ears and hugely popular, the Obama Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a National Broadband Plan that talked a lot about the magic of spectrum but said almost nothing about competition policy. In particular, the plan did not recommend that the FCC use its authority under the 1996 Telecommunications Act to act like a regulator when dealing with the providers of high-speed Internet access. Nor did the plan mention net neutrality. The idea was, apparently, that focusing on net neutrality — then seen as a polarizing, touchy subject — would doom the success of the plan, which got a big roll-out, a major media push and a splashy new Web site.

But in the last couple months everything changed. Few people still remember that we even have a National Broadband Plan. But the President has directly taken on the subject of high-speed Internet access with a kind of exuberant zeal. Net neutrality is no longer a radioactive term but a bopping slogan. He’s having fun, and he knows he’s right.

Let’s roll the tape. He made a major Law-Professor-in-Chief assertion in November that the FCC should use its existing legal authority and be a cop on the beat when it comes to high-speed Internet access. As he put it, “I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality.” The Commission had been tying itself in knots by simultaneously claiming that Internet access wasn’t a regulated service but was subject to “Open Internet” rules. The President seemed to understand that after this argument had twice been labeled a loser by the D.C. Circuit, “once more with feeling” was no longer a sustainable strategy. Enough was enough. Just regulate. (The legal shorthand for this step, “Title II,” rolled right off his tongue; clearly he’s heard a lot from many people about this issue.)

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