U of Michigan law professor Crawford: Now's the chance for FCC
Susan Crawford sees it differently than Michael Powell.
Check out her op-ed in The New York Times on Sunday, where the University of Michigan law professor credits deregulation of broadband services under former FCC chairmen Michael Powell and Kevin Martin with consolidation of service providers, lagging speeds and higher prices. Crawford also served as an economic advisor to President Obama.
It wouldn’t be the first time that the F.C.C. relabeled Internet access services — and certainly not the first time it addressed the need for equal access. Until August 2005, the commission required that companies providing high-speed access to the Internet over telephone lines not discriminate among Web sites. This allowed innumerable online businesses — eBay, Google, Amazon, your local knitter — to start up without asking permission from phone and cable companies. There was nothing unusual about this legal requirement; for more than 100 years, federal regulators had treated telegraph and telephone service providers as "common carriers," obligated to serve everyone equally.
But under the Bush administration the F.C.C. deregulated high-speed Internet providers, arguing that cable Internet access was different from the kind of high-speed Internet access provided by phone companies. Cable Internet access providers, the commission said, really offered an integrated bundle of services — not just Internet connection but also e-mail, Web hosting, news groups and other services. So the F.C.C. declared that high-speed Internet access would no longer be considered a “telecommunications service” but rather an “information service.” This removed all high-speed Internet access services — phone as well as cable — from regulation under the common-carrier section of the Communications Act.
April 11, 2010; 10:17 PM ET
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