After news broke earlier that the FCC will move to regulate Internet lines, we assembled five experts on net neutrality to spar on the topic. There was blood, tears (I may be exaggerating slightly) and frank discourse on the FCC’s jurisdiction and the possible fallout for Internet competition, access and the FCC’s much ballyhooed National Broadband plan.
Andrew Keen, author of The Cult Of The Amateur, led the discussion which included Richard Bennett (research fellow at the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation), Larry Downes (fellow of the Stanford Law School Center For Internet & Society), Michael Masnick (CEO and Founder of Techdirt) and Gigi Sohn (CEO and Founder of Public Knowledge, who came in on Skype).
This is of course a major issue for the Internet community and all its stakeholders, from the cable providers to the consumers. According to reports, the FCC will try to regulate internet lines under Title 2 of the Communications Act, which is currently used to oversee the traditional telecom industry. It’s a workaround for the FCC, which was handed a defeat last month when a federal court decided that the regulatory agency did not have the power to enforce net neutrality (in a case against Comcast). It’s a been a divisive issue, pitting providers against consumer groups and Internet companies.
The lines were clearly marked in this debate, with Sohn arguing in favor of the FCC, calling the Communications Act a logical regulatory framework that the providers will be familiar with. Bennett – who, speaking to Keen after the shoot, called the FCC’s move the “9/11 for the Internet” – adamantly disagrees, saying the FCC never had the jurisdiction to regulate the Internet. Many of the panelists agreed that if the FCC follows through on this decision, it will trigger several lawsuits that will tie up our federal courts for years (Keen warns of the “invasion of the lawyers”). Full interview above.
Full disclosure: Andrew Keen is an adviser to Arts and Labs, which is an industry coalition skeptical of net neutrality reform.