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10.13.2003
Originally featured on BroadcastEngineering.com
FCC policies threaten Internet

FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps, the FCC's leading Democratic opponent of the agency’s new ownership rules, said last week that the “Internet as we know it is at risk” from corporate interests who want the FCC to “aid and abet” them.

“Entrenched interests are positioning themselves to control the network’s chokepoints,” Copps charged. “The Internet was designed to prevent government or a corporation or anyone else from controlling it. But this original vision of the Internet may soon be lost. In its place [would be] a warped view that open networks should be replaced by closed networks and that accessibility can be superseded by a new power to discriminate is emerging.”

Copps made his comments during a speech in Washington, D.C. at the New America Foundation, an independent, non-partisan, non-profit public policy institute. The presentation was titled: The Beginning of the end of the Internet? Discrimination, Closed Networks and the Future of Cyberspace.

“Our ill-advised Internet policy is only one piece of a tectonic shift across the whole range of FCC issues,” Copps continued. “From media to telecom to the Internet, we appear to be rushing toward breathtaking regulatory alterations. The Commission is permitting, even encouraging, competition to wither in the face of centralization. It is short changing its responsibility to protect the public interest.”

The commissioner warned that the FCC may soon implement fundamental regulatory changes that would have deep and lasting effects on consumers, innovators, and business users.

“Until now the big corporations that control Internet bottlenecks have been unable fully to capitalize on this power,” he said. “But now we face scenarios wherein those with bottleneck control will be able to discriminate against both users and content providers that they don’t have commercial relationships with, don’t share the same politics with, or just don’t want to offer access to for any reason at all. From the not so distant shadows of the past, old attitudes favoring industry consolidation and limited access are again seeking to reestablish themselves.”

At issue are upcoming decisions at the FCC that will determine how much control companies will have over Internet access and their ability to discriminate against users, data, Web sites, or technologies. In the dial-up world, current protections require these companies to treat everyone equally. This equal treatment has contributed to enormous growth and innovation on the Internet. These decisions come on the heels of the FCC eliminating related media concentration protections. A federal court has stayed that decision, and Congress is now debating reversing it. In addition, on Monday, another federal court overturned aspects of the FCC's cable broadband policy.

To download the full text of Copps speech, visit www.fcc.gov.

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