What The “Internet Freedom Preservation Act of 2008″ Is Trying To Fix
In this installment of “PhoneBoy says where the CTIA is wrong again,” the CTIA thinks that we shouldn’t be attempting to regulate what Internet service providers should and should not do regarding access to the Internet. The CTIA, the lobbying arm for the wireless industry in the U.S., might be against that since their members are effectively Internet service providers, being as they provide access to the Internet, albeit through wireless means.
What is it that the CTIA doesn’t like? Well, let’s look at the guiding principles behind this legislation (HR 5353, warning PDF link), embodied in the proposed amendment to Title 1 of the Communications Act of 1934:
SEC. 12. BROADBAND POLICY.
It is the policy of the United States—
(1) to maintain the freedom to use for lawful purposes broadband telecommunications networks, including the Internet, without unreasonable interference from or discrimination by network operators, as has been the policy and history of the Internet and the basis of user expectations since its inception;
(2) to ensure that the Internet remains a vital force in the United States economy, thereby enabling the Nation to preserve its global leadership in online commerce and technological innovation;
(3) to preserve and promote the open and interconnected nature of broadband networks that enable consumers to reach, and service providers to offer, lawful content, applications, and services of
their choosing, using their selection of devices, as long as such devices do not harm the network; and
(4) to safeguard the open marketplace of ideas on the Internet by adopting and enforcing baseline protections to guard against unreasonable discriminatory favoritism for, or degradation of, content by network operators based upon its source, ownership, or destination on the Internet.
The way I read this act, it’s not about competition at all. It’s about giving the Federal Communications Commission the charter to look at what providers are doing with respect to these guidelines and ensure they are enforced. What’s not clear to me is what the FCC can do about it if the providers aren’t up to these guidelines.
As near as I can tell, none of the major mobile network operators in the U.S. have lived up to these principles. They all have restricted services one can use at some level, they have made the Internet available through a “walled garden,” have been anything but open when it comes to connecting with your own devices and software, and have not been shy about stating their desires to “filter” or otherwise make their dumb pipe smarter.
What this law does is codify a principle many of us have been saying for a while now: make your pipe as dumb as possible. Give us lawful access and don’t impede it in any way. The CTIA–and the companies they represent–are scared out of their mind. They have read the writing on the wall a-la this proposed law, and they don’t like it.
It’s like I said before: innovate or get the hell out of the way. Mobile network operators should focus on providing us a fat, reliable pipe with great connectivity. Nothing more. That’s what they’re good at. Billing me for it? They’re great at that, too. But content? Applications? Don’t count on it.