Friday, February 27, 2015

Net Gain

KellogCandlestick2The F.C.C. voted yesterday to approve net neutrality, basically making the internet a public utility, not unlike the rest of telecommunications in the United States.  Upyernoz has a concise explanation of what net neutrality is, how it works, and why there’s any controversy about it.

A phrase that I remember from a class I took a long time ago on the history of broadcasting was that a utility such as the telephone company and broadcast networks must operate in the “public interest, convenience, and necessity.”  The internet is no longer a luxury or a curiosity.  Just about everything we do in our daily lives has some element of connectivity to it, and we’ve become as dependent on it was we have of the electric power grid or water system.

That means that the people who provide the service need to remember they have a duty to operate in the public interest, convenience, and necessity, and if it makes their profit margin a little tighter or they can’t screw over someone for wanting to watch House of Cards instead of something they own a stake in, that’s what comes with being indispensable.

History reminds us that the phone companies fought the designation of their service as a utility back in their infancy, as did the radio broadcasting networks, who were fighting with the newspapers over their right to broadcast the news.  Somehow American Telephone & Telegraph survived, as did the National Broadcasting Company and the Columbia Broadcasting System, and so will Comcast and Time Warner.

4 barks and woofs on “Net Gain

  1. The next step is to make broadband available to everyone. There are still plenty of rural areas that have no Internet access.

  2. It’s funny all the hate against this. If there is ANYTHING that defines “a public utility” it is the internet. When you get a new place to live, you worry about: electric, heat (gas, oil, wev), water/sewer, internet, trash. That is a list of… wait for it… utilities.

    And note, landline phone is no longer a part of that… My how things change.

    • Interesting how you don’t mention TV service as well. Given how many utilities that used to be known for that are instead becoming known for internet service with the TV and phone added on (instead of the TV or phone service providing internet access in addition). FiOS, Cox and Compost are all advertising more about their bandwidth than about the number of video channels, on-demand viewing, or phone features. Times changing, indeed.

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