Internet Innovation Alliance’s Bruce Mehlman wrote an insightful blog post last Friday about the second thoughts companies like Netflix are having about the Federal Communications Commission’s decision to reclassify broadband services as plain old telephone service. Netflix’s befuddlement over the FCC’s decision to use Title II to drop the regulatory hammer on the internet ecosystem has me wondering how much on the same page were these net neutrality proponents? The push for net neutrality may be an example of how dysfunctional the left can be when it sells a narrative to multiple classes within its big tent and has the manage the disappointment that ironically occurs when it gets what it wants.
Netflix’s insistence that heavy Title II regulation was not a part of its end game has me wondering if progressives had really settled down on a definition of a “fair and open” internet. The left apparently has not. To Netflix and other Silicon Valley giants, fair and open appears to mean an internet where they can interconnect in a pre-1996 manner; under some bill and keep methodology with any type of technology they deemed appropriate regardless of a broadband provider’s discomfort.
To the end-users, the four million confused members of the masses, “fair and open” was a rallying cry of the democratic wish; that a fair internet will respect their rights to communicate with whatever website of their choice and move data equally to the end-user no matter the source of the content.
Narrative managers like Public Knowledge and Free Press were successful in conflating the two narratives but were probably inept in educating their supporters, like Tumblr‘s David Karp, as to the downside of using Title II as a mechanism for reconciling the two narratives. Title II, Mr. Karp and the rest of his Silicon Valley cohorts should have been told that their content operations, particularly the agreements that they enter into to connect to broadband networks, were not guaranteed to escape fees for the exchange of data nor was privacy from prying consumer or competitor eyes or noninterference from the government going to be avoidable.
The FCC may find itself a big loser resulting from its participation in a disingenuous conflation of varying narratives. It must now deliver on a basket of promises to the consumer as it answers complaints from an ill-informed electorate regarding every perceived slight in service practice and rate assessments. It won’t be able to tell consumers or the markets that it never intended to regulate rates. Consumers won’t stand for that because improving their consumer welfare calls for what they believe is a long-awaited initiative to regulate rates.
You wanted 1995? You may have to settle for 1934.