Regulate first, ask questions later

Press reports on the FCC’s vote on the Vuze/Free Press petitions against Comcast suggest a peculiar outcome, where FCC orders Comcast to stop managing BitTorrent and to also tell the FCC how and when it manages BitTorrent:

The FCC would require Comcast to stop slowing or blocking access to certain online applications, mostly video file-sharing services such as BitTorrent. The company would also be required to provide more disclosure to consumers about its network management practices and provide more details to the FCC about how it’s blocked or slowed traffic in the past.

If the FCC is convinced the management is wrong, why ask for the data? And why only ask for the data after nearly a year of investigating and three raucous public spectacles?

Vuze recently changed its business model, providing search service for piracy sites such as Mininova and Pirate’s Bay:

In addition to Vuze.com, the new search box gives users the option to search third-party web sites, with Mininova, Sumotorrent, BTJunkie and Jamendo being preselected. With the exception of Jamendo, all of these also feature unlicensed content. In fact, Mininova was sued by Dutch rights holders just a few weeks ago. But Vuze CEO Gilles BianRosa told me that he doesn’t think his company could run into trouble by searching these sources. “We have considered the existing legal framework and feel comfortable about the addition of this feature to our new release,” he told me, adding that rights holders could use the search to add their platforms to the mix as well.

We have a curious outcome where the FCC is ordering carriers to provide free bandwidth to pirates.

Small, wireless ISPs are hit harder by this order than the large corporations. If they can’t manage BitTorrent, they’re out of business. Brett Glass is in that situation.

See my recent FCC Comments here.

More as this develops, but for now enjoy the debate at DSL Reports, where the nefarious scheme to allocate bandwidth fairly first emerged.

John Dunbar’s AP story is here. Pretty straight coverage.

Nate Anderson’s Ars Technica is not so straight, tilting toward an editorial.

Blog talk is here, thanks to the good folks at GoogleTM.

Adam Thierer gives props to the big gov’t-pro regulator team at TLF:

It is a difficult thing for me to say, but I am man enough to do it: I must congratulate our intellectual opponents on their amazing victory in the battle to impose Net neutrality regulations on the Internet. With the Wall Street Journal reporting last night that the FCC is on the verge of acting again Comcast based on the agency’s amorphous Net neutrality principles, it is now clear that the folks at the Free Press, Public Knowledge, and the many other advocates of comprehensive Internet regulation have succeeded in convincing a Republican-led FCC to get on the books what is, in essence, the nation’s first Net Neutrality law. It is quite an accomplishment when you think about it.

Indeed.

Bob Fernandez covers the story in the Philly Inquirer, Comcast’s hometown paper:

Consumer and advocacy groups say action by Martin is necessary to preserve First Amendment protections on the Internet and to protect broadband consumers. Free Press, an advocacy group opposed to media consolidation, filed the complaint with the FCC. It was disappointed that Martin wouldn’t fine Comcast to send a message to the industry.

But others warn that Martin’s decision, announced at a Washington news conference, advances the FCC’s powers on the Internet without new laws.

“This is the foot in the door for big government to regulate the Internet,” said Adam Thierer, a senior fellow at the Progress and Freedom Foundation, a free-market think tank in Washington. “This is the beginning of a serious regulatory regime. For the first time, the FCC is making law around net neutrality.”

Net neutrality refers to the concept that Internet operators should treat all data traffic the same and not interfere with it – a subject hotly debated in recent years on Capitol Hill. Companies say they sometimes interfere with Internet traffic for practical reasons, like easing data jams.

Nobody ever mentions that unmanaged traffic causes more delay for users than managed traffic.

One thought on “Regulate first, ask questions later”

  1. Alas, this is a victory AGAINST the Internet rather than FOR the Internet. The lobbyists who prompted this decision lied, and lied, and lied again…. The truth is that Comcast never censored the Internet one bit (not even the site of the lobbyists, who were slandering it) and was preserving quality of service in the face of attempted bandwidth hogging. Big corporations are often evil, but in this case Comcast was doing The Right Thing and deserved praise, not a penalty. (We need to encourage them when they do that, so that it happens more often.)

    This decision is particularly troubling because it lets the nose of the regulatory camel into the Internet’s big tent. If you can tell ISPs that they can’t manage bandwidth, next you’ll be telling them what content to carry and not to carry. In fact, the FCC is already floating a proposal for censored public Internet. That’s the last thing we need.

    Oh, and Free Press is continuing to censor postings I’ve made to its blog. So much for free, open media and political debate!

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