Perhaps one of the most significant and sweeping changes to the way the Internet is regulated may be in the works.
Earlier this week, in a speech by the President Obama, he issued a statement that the Internet should be reclassified as a common carrier under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.
Shocking news, no? There has been a quite a bit of discussion about the Internet and its role as a communications channel, with respect to telephony. He did suggest that a “limited forbearance” be granted to the aspects that do not apply to telephone, but that isn’t the crux of the issue. In the opinion of the writer, there is a hidden agenda that the carriers and other telecom providers are pushing.
With the emergence of platforms such as Voice over IP (VoIP) and Voice over Wi-Fi (VoWi-Fi), the telecom providers are seeing a potential pandemic loss of revenue. Wi-Fi has already off-loaded 70 percent of all data from the carrier networks to free Wi-Fi networks. That is a lot of potential revenue that the wireless carriers aren’t getting. They have not been able to find a way to monetize Wi-Fi services and they are powerless to stop the bleeding. These, free telecom and data services, are scaring the heck out of them.
So, as usual, deep pockets turn to where they have, traditionally, found relief – government.
Obama said that “For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) flatly, called upon FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to draft new regulations that would reclassify the Internet as a telecommunications, rather than an information, service under the Telecommunications Act of 1996. Reading between the lines, that is intended to put revenue into the pockets of the telecom oligopolies.
On the other side, FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai responded, in part, to an ex parte letter filed by AT&T. He said that, “The common-carriage rules of Title II were designed to control one company that had a monopoly on long-distance telephone service, not the 1,712 companies that now compete to provide broadband service to the American consumer.”
Why? Because AT&T argued that Universal Service Fees might be extended to the Internet, effectively creating 17 percent service taxes. E-mail providers would have to seek customer consent for the use of any personal information disclosed from users. To that, he responded, “Why should we apply anti-consumer rules like tariffing to the broadband world? And why should we open the door to actual access charges, imposed on edge providers, content delivery networks, and transit?” Tons of rhetoric like this is out there, both pro and con as to whether or not the Internet should or should not be regulated in some fashion.
The fact is that, in the next decade, the Internet, as we know it, will undergo a radical change. It will go from the Internet of information, in which telecom providers had little interest, to the Internet of things (or everything, or cloud of things – pick your poison), in which the carriers are no longer needed. It is quite conceivable that the internet will carry it all.
Think about it. Could that be the reason the carriers are making all of this noise? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Email me at: [email protected]
Ernest Worthman is the editor of AGL Small Cells Magazine.