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Op-Ed: FCC to regulate Internet and municipal Wi-Fi, does it hurt IoT?

Free market absolutists might hate this, but anyone who’s spent a half hour on the phone with Comcast trying to get those extra charges dropped may rejoice.

The short version of the story goes something like this: advocates introduced the idea of Net Neutrality to prevent Internet service providers from creating tiered service, with the bigger accounts getting faster speeds and everyone else getting slow Internet with ads and blocked content, then lobbyists fought against Net Neutrality, and in response, Obama and the FCC decided that the Internet is not a privilege, it’s a necessity, like electricity and water, and now, the FCC wants to regulate the industry the same as the government regulates, well, electricity and water.

The FCC isn’t looking to pull a total crackdown on the industry; they want to guide ISP’s with a nudge, not a shove. High speed Internet will be classified as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act, which will allow the FCC to ensure that service providers can’t get away with tiered service or blocked content. As of now, the FCC is not seeking to dictate pricing, as the government does with water and power, though they may extend their reach to wireless data providers. A vote will be held on February 26th to see whether or not all of this goes through.

Here we sit at an intersection of technology and political ideology, and there are more questions than answers. Is it really the government’s job to ensure the availability of high speed Internet, or will the free market generally prevent anyone from lowballing the consumer? Easy accessibility to high speed Internet is a must for the next big wave of technological advancement, you don’t want to ride in a self-driving car that’s running on America Online 1.0 Internet speeds, but is that the government’s problem, or the manufacturer’s? Is regulation even necessary when high speed Internet has become so readily available that it would be difficult even for the government to stop people from accessing it? Is the FCC really interested in providing the people with great Internet, or might this be motivated by the fact that telecommunications companies pay more in taxes than information companies do? There’s a lot of debate to be had there and a lot of good points to be made by both sides.

Meanwhile, Obama is pushing an initiative to let states offer municipal Internet services. While service provider prices aren’t being regulated, the option of getting cheap, fast Internet courtesy of your home state will certainly create a competitive environment in the ISP market.

We’re standing on the edge of an era where the Internet isn’t something that we explore with our phones and laptops, but something that influences every single aspect of our daily lives. If we consider that we’re about to see the Internet become an integral part of the highway system, then it seems obvious that, however the vote goes on February 26th, some form of regulation was always inevitable.

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