In the Washington DC federal appeals court on Tuesday, Verizon won a very troubling decision. It is a decision that if not fought could lead to troubling ideas of “toll road” internet prices. Tiers of internet that block certain services like cable packages block certain channels in different cable packages. Independent web services and websites like Netflix, Facebook, Skype, or Google could be crippled or blocked unless you pay for a premium internet experience package while Verizon owned or partnered websites & services could be offered in the cheap basic “Channel” package. A very chilling idea but not unheard of if you think back to the history of telecommunications in the United States.
We have seen in the past what happens when the monopoly of “Ma Bell” was unchecked. Self regulating markets owned 100% by Ma Bell blocked competition. If “Ma Bell” didn’t like the rabble complaining or fighting back for their service was held hostage hostages until the leaderships of towns, cities, counties, and even states put under heel. It was like a story out of a wild west movie, the richest man in town owns both the water & the mine and then buys the election to become mayor too.
We paid astronomical rates to our feudal lord AT&T. We rented our phones directly from AT&T as well. We could be punished by our lord if we tried to get one those “new” answering machines too. Trying to use your computer to dial into other computers wasn’t even possible, the internet wouldn’t have been even possible.
But after the monopoly antitrust case against AT&T, the FCC was pinned sheriff to make sure this could never happen again. The FCC was to telecom what the Texas Rangers were to the Wild West. They were there to hunt down and punish companies who tried to block this new idea of Common Carrier access protection from after the Antitrust case. Common Carrier was the right that all phone lines had to allow access from any provider to run competing service over it for phone calls. This allowed the burst in the world from analog to digital and to the internet to even occur. But in the last 20 years the teeth that the FCC once had to defend that has all but been removed.
Some argue Common Carrier is repressive, but I ask, “to who?”
When you force an industry, to have competition and allow people choice, how is that at all bad? With the 2008 FCC rules on Network Neutrality called the “Open Internet Order“ the FCC was trying to evolve the idea of this to the digital era and protect an open forum of the internet for new ideas or services, the next Netflix or the next legal pathway for consumers to get access to digital content. Perhaps the next video phone service that made it possible to call anyone free of charge. But an appeals court decision in favor of Verizon now makes it, for the time being, perfectly kosher to make it so competing services to Verizon’s video and phone over the internet now should cost you more money because they are running on Verizon’s pipes, or Comcast’s, or Time Warner Cable …