Mar 02, 2015

How will the FCC’s decision to classify ISPs under Title II of the Telecommunications Act impact internet users?

I’ve heard some pretty severe criticisms of this decision by some of my friends (this is Obamacare for the internet, the government just took over the internet, this will stifle innovation, this is a way for them to monitor everything you do, etc.). These are my more conservative friends, and I take what they say with a grain of sale, but what are the likely differences that we will see as a result of ISPs being reclassified under Title II?
Let’s get the possible....not certain, but possible....bad news out of the way first. Under Title II states are allowed to add fees to telecommunication services to pay for things like services for the deaf or blind. So a state looking to gain a source of revenue (especially a red state if they can blame it on the Federal government) may well take advantage of this.

Other than that, what are you likely to see? Better quality streaming video because the ISPs can’t throttle based on content to extort additional money out of companies like Netflix. What else? Increased competition from smaller ISPs that will gain access to poles so that they can compete with the existing monopolies/duopolies that most American’s get to choose from at present. In fact, if you look at the companies that opposed Title II reclassification, you will see that smaller ISPs generally were not among them. So, you will see increased competition with better speeds and cheaper rates, most likely. Speculation, you say? Just look at what happened to the markets Google Fiber has entered - better speeds and lower rates. We will likely see something similar on a national basis, although of course each area is unique and may not attract viable competitors.

The ISPs that are screaming about this brought it on themselves. Remember the FCC had quite a soft touch with ISPs, but Verizon hated any regulations, so they sued the FCC and succeeded in getting a Court to rule that the FCC did not have the authority to regulate them under the existing rules. The judge in that case, however, helpfully pointed out that the FCC DOES have the power to regulate under Title II, and Verizon forced the FCC to either take the steps they have taken or give up on any attempt at protecting the public interest and regulating ISPs. Verizon asked for it, and they got it.
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