FCC Issues "Third Way" To Protect Consumers, Regulate Internet Providers

Net Neutrality has always been a hot button topic, just like anything else involving politics. What really pushed the discussion over the edge was Comcast's decision to throttle some users in hopes of providing a "better experience" for others; you can probably imagine why this made some people glad and some people upset. But the question always lingered: could Comcast really do that? As the Internet becomes more of an asset and a bigger factor in the global economy, we knew the American government would step in at some point to have their say. And now, the FCC is doing just that.

Over the course of this week, the agency has been looking into how to best add some oversight to an Internet that has essentially had none for its entire life. This lack of oversight, some say, is what made the Internet great. Good sites thrives, bad ones died. Users made the decisions. But it's not so much the content that the government is worried about, it's the content providers. Actually, the companies that provide content from the content providers.

We're talking about ISPs, like Comcast, Time Warner Cable, AT&T, etc. These guys have an incredible amount of power over your Internet experience, and with the government already hoping to push broadband to rural locations where these companies generally avoid (due to lack of profitiability), now the FCC is hoping to get a better handle on how much control they have over your content flow.

In the past, there have mostly been two ways to handle oversight; one was extremely light, one was extremely heavy. There really was no middle ground. FCC head Julius Genachowski has published a hopeful "third way," with his plan called "a narrowly tailored broadband framework." He says the goal of his approach is to "restore the broadly supported status quo consensus that existed prior to the court decision on the FCC's role with respect to broadband Internet service," and he describes a framework to "support policies that advance our global competitiveness and preserve the Internet as a powerful platform for innovation, free speech, and job creation."

So basically, the FCC wants some added power over the Internet, mostly to protect users from "anticompetitive or otherwise unreasonable conduct by companies providing the broadband access service (e.g., DSL, cable modem, or fiber) to which consumers subscribe for access to the Internet." They don't necessarily want power over your content, just the ISPs who can get a little unreasonable at times. On the surface, it certainly sounds pro-consumer, but obviously ISPs aren't jumping for joy about having to potentially follow more rules. And we definitely don't disagree with this point: "The FCC needs backstop authority to prevent these companies from restricting lawful innovation or speech, or engaging in unfair practices, as well as the ability to develop policies aimed at connecting all Americans to broadband, including in rural areas."

What's your take on all of this? Do you think the FCC is doing the right thing? Wish they would just leave things alone?