By now, you've seen the headlines trumpeting the Internet's collective voice being heard as the FCC adopted the re-classification of Internet Service as a Title II common carrier, much like phone companies are now. This is the very beginning of what will be a lifelong struggle for fans of a free and open Internet. While we most wholeheartedly agree that the net, while being unregulated, has grown nicely, it goes without saying that Internet access in the United States is both slower and more expensive than much of the world.
We recognize the difficulties in providing Internet service to a country as geographically large as the United States, but do not believe these problems explain the overwhelming lack of choice most Americans have when it comes to Internet Service Providers. This past decade has shown us both what's possible when broadband Internet can unite a nation as well as the crowding out of local ISPs when larger ones like Comcast, Cox, or Centurylink flood in to a market.
Last week, the New York Times published an article whose headline picture showed FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler backstage with New Mexico Senator, Jacob Candelaria just before hosting what was publicly advertised as a panel discussion with Mr. Wheeler as the keynote panelist. As founder of Nerds Limited, I myself attended this panel, along with Paul Aiten and the Nerds Limited Intern, Abdiel Ramirez. The questions for this discussion spent nearly no time discussing net neutrality and instead discussed Mr. Wheeler's visits to several local Native American reservations and public schools.
This visit occurred only a few days after John Oliver called out the collective Internet to oppose FCC regulation of the Internet.
On the heels of such controversy, Mr. Wheeler spent two hours being told just how important broadband Internet is in remote areas instead of making any mention of net neutrality whatsoever.
Sadly, the cable companies have figured out the great truth of America. If you want to do something evil, put it inside something boring. My primary concern, given the outrageous lack of competition between companies for high speed Internet access, is not that last week's victory wasn't a victory, but that the actual regulations have yet to be publicly available for scrutiny and that a long, slow power grab will not meet with much resistance from the collective Internet.
While a few articles are concerned about net neutrality in lieu of the current reclassification, the vast majority of the net was ecstatic and overjoyed about the victory. Personally, we believe Mr. Oliver had it right. The real threat to the Internet will be a persistent attempt by those who can no longer push regulations through the front door, doing so by slow more methodical means.
Cable companies are certain that the day will come when nobody wants cable television. As such, they've reduced the cost of basic cable to nearly nothing and slowly raised the price of their Internet Service. That way, on the day you triumphantly declare that you're ready to "cut the cord" from cable tv, you will save nearly no money.
We believe big business is hoping the five page summary will quell the vast majority of the Internet outrage, allowing the masses to return to their business happily certain that their rights to have what they want on the Internet to be safely protected on the net indefinitely. We must not forget about the importance of how these new regulations can still affect content delivery. The summary only shows how they will not. There are so many ways Mr. Oliver's "wrapped in something boring" can still affect consumers, we urge you to pay attention to what will undoubtedly be less than headline news when the 332 page document is actually released.
Net Neutrality has been protected today, and, rest assured, will need to be defended continuously if it is to be a useful regulation to everyone who depends on impartial treatment of information delivery tomorrow.
Update: The rules were released today, along with a lengthy dissenting opinion from the panel members who opposed the passage of the ruling. We look forward to following the discussion as the Internet debates the more subtle points outlined by the document. In the interim, here's a summary of some of more quotable portions as outlined by the New York Times.