10.15.2003 12:00 PM
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
Copps points to changing regulatory environment as threat to Internet

Speaking before a New America Foundation luncheon Oct. 9, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps warned that “the Internet as we know it is at risk.”

Addressing the New America Foundation, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps identified a regulatory environment that could turn control of Internet choke-points over to a few business interests as threats to the “Internet as we know it.” Photo courtesy of the New America Foundation.

In his speech to the Washington, D.C.-based policy institute, Copps pointed to potential constriction of access to information via the Internet at the hands of corporate interests as the culprit. “It may be dying because entrenched interests are positioning themselves to control the Internet’s choke-points and they are lobbying the FCC to aid and abet them,” he explained.

Historically, the Internet has provided open access to information, news, entertainment and commerce, but that may be changing. “From right to left, Republicans and Democrats, rural and urban, we view the Internet as a place of freedom where new technologies and business innovation and competition flourish,” he said. “For all our other differences, we point to the Internet as an example of how things ought to work.”

“What made the Internet such fertile ground for this success?” he asked rhetorically. “For openers: freedom, access, and wide dispersal of power.” Copps pointed to “regulatory miscalculations” on the part of the commission that “endanger the freedom and lifeblood of the Internet.”

“We seem to be buying into a warped vision that open networks should be replaced by closed networks and that traditional user accessibility can be superceded by a new power to discriminate. Let this vision prevail and the winners will be entrenched with far greater power than they have today to design and control the Internet of the future. I am not singling out one specific industry here. I am talking about any company that controls a choke-point.”

According to Copps, the regulatory direction affecting the Internet is part of a “tectonic shift” in telecommunications and media issues at the FCC. “From media to telecom to the Internet and beyond, we appear to be rushing toward breathtaking change in regulatory policy. The Commission strikes me as on course to replace open networks with closed systems. It is permitting, even encouraging, competition to wither in the face of centralization. And it is short-changing its responsibility to protect the public interest.”

To read the speech in its entirety, please visit: http://www.newamerica.net/Download_Docs/pdfs/Doc_File_194_1.pdf.

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