The FCC is assuming regulatory control over the internet amid worries from across the political right that this will lead to politicized censorship.
Considering that every other medium that the FCC has assumed control over has come under politicized censorship, that result would not be that surprising. I’ve already expressed my opinion about whether or not I think this is something to worry about, but I’ll expound on that some more here.
While the current move is purportedly about ‘fast lanes,’ the more important detail is the expansion of the agency’s authority. This will make it much easier for new regulations to go through which impact content — like the reviled ‘SOPA’ and ‘PIPA’ which astro-turf activists paid for by the tech firms believed that they had delayed.
The hilarious part of this is that by attaching the FCC’s expansion of authority to the long-beloved-of-nerds net neutrality issue is that foundations like the EFF were happy to support it, despite it inevitably leading to the same sorts of regulations that it has agitated against for years.
We don’t know how quickly the FCC will proceed in regulating internet content. We don’t even really know the details of what the current plans are. My guess is that the regulatory administration will take a gradual approach. The Republicans will do what they can to serve the interests of the ISPs, but won’t care all that much about the content side of things.
“Regulate as a utility” is a phrase that makes leftists very happy, because it means political jobs for the orcs, trolls, and goblins of their coalition. They use this particular phrase with banking, also — especially commercial banking.
If you work in or around tech, and you are at all familiar with what working in commercial banking is like, the thought of that sort of Soviet business culture should make you want to raise the black flag and cut throats.
This will probably be bad for the corporations that elected to lobby for it — particularly companies like Google that will contract and die without a growing web economy. They are shooting themselves in the balls by handing over the keys to the FCC.
The unregulated internet is the smartest thing that Robert Rubin and Bill Clinton put together during their administration. It even created a new class of billionaire supporters for Democrats. Blowing that up is more stupid and self-destructive than it is conniving and Machiavellian. Give me well-executed conniving any day over looming Zimbabwe-ism.
On the content censorship side of things, it just means that accurate information will become a controlled substance, and most of what will be sold by licensed providers will be either completely inaccurate or misleading. So, not that much different from the way it is today, but with less legal competition and more illegal competition.
Information is much more important to the ordinary functioning of society than drugs are, so what you would expect to see is for people to start hunting for more real-talk, because it’ll be more obvious than ever that the information they’re getting is not accurate.
In anticipation of this, it’s time to get started on building informal and formal networks which interpret FedNet as damage and route around it.
The solution to the problem will be some part human and some part technical. It wouldn’t be surprising to see more regulation of computer hardware, also, as tensions between nations regarding snooping devices on consumer hardware are becoming more acute.
So the solutions will have to be partly hardware, also, since it’s possible that we’re going to see more locked-down devices which break rapidly and get filled with lots of spying cruft — this should be easy to see just extrapolating from current trends. Your iPhone will only connect to FedNet, and it’ll break every few years. It’ll be a gradual change that most people won’t notice.
On net, FedNet will be terrible, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see the international nature of the internet become impeded by its establishment. The plus side is that the general crisis which it precipitates will also bring with it a lot of opportunities, especially as the informational infrastructure that society has come to rely upon breaks down.
What can’t be stopped is the regulatory move. What can be done is to adapt effectively to the new legal regime.