The FCC asserted jurisdiction over the regulation of high-speed Internet services today, and, in particular, how it interprets the controversial concept of “net neutrality.” The rules are complicated (hey, this is Washington). But the general drift is apparent from the public statements made at this morning’s open meeting.
The commission will require the telcos to offer more information on the services being offered. And it appears that it will give providers flexibility both in what they charge for different sorts of service (good news if you’re hooked on high-quality streaming video) and how they manage their networks. The rules also seem to acknowledge that wired and wireless broadband are very different animals; accordingly, providers will be able to use very different business models in selling the services.
But as the Republican commissioners noted, the rules, which passed 3-to-2 on a party-line vote, follow no consistent economic logic. Still, if implemented with a light touch, there’s a good chance they won’t much affect the pace of investment in new broadband systems or the benefits garnered by consumers. The key word here is if: much (too much) depends on the way the commission and its staff use their new tools.