What Title II Regulation of the Internet Actually Means

There is a great deal of discussion today about empowering the FCC to regulate internet services providers as if they were public utilities. Supporters of Net Neutrality tend to think this is a good idea, because they fear that ISPs will give discriminatory access to bandwidth, creating a so-called “internet fast lane” for companies with enough capital to pay.

The solution, many argue, is to classify the internet as a “common carrier” under Title II of the Federal Communication Act of 1934. The following is an extract from the FCC’s proposed rule.

It all sounds very tidy and official. But how many supporters of this proposal have actually taken time to read the law to which they want to subject the internet – a law, it will be remembered, that was passed decades before anyone had even so much as dreamt the first hazy dream of microchips, email, and the kind of global communication network the internet would one day become?

A close reading of the actual law reveals just how dangerous this proposal is, and how much power it would grant the FCC. The entire law is 333 pages long, but let’s examine a few choice sections so that we may get a glimpse of what is actually being proposed, away from the fog of overly general rhetoric that too often influences public opinion.