Consumer Protection, the FCC, and the Internet


The FCC probably will revoke every license in my file after this post.

Here it goes anyway.

I am speaking as someone who spent the first twenty years of his working life in broadcasting.  At one time or another, I’ve held amateur, commercial and experimental licenses issued by the Commission.  I’ve worked in the industries they regulate.  I have seen how changes to rules and acts of Congress change the landscape of the “public good” radio and television are meant to be.

Based on my experience, I cannot see how treating Internet Service Providers as Title II utilities will be any better for the consumer.

The Cable Act of 1992 required cable systems to carry local television broadcast channels.  While it prohibited cable operators from charging broadcasters to carry their signals, this “Consumer Protection” act also allows broadcasters to demand that cable systems pay them to carry their signals.

This is why cable companies kick off major broadcasters from their line up from time to time.  They can’t reach an agreement on how much you, er, the cable company, will pay the broadcaster to carry them.

These rules also are the reason why your cable bill is far more expensive per channel today than it was before Congress protected you.

Local Marketing Agreements, or LMAs, caused another host of problems.  These rules led to ownership consolidation where we now have two or three monopolies running terrestrial radio.  The number of television owner groups have gone down dramatically under these rules as well.  We have the Telecommunications Act of 1996 to thank for this situation.

Broadcasting, as a career, is nearly destroyed unless you’re in sales.  Ask any technical-side employee, like an SNG engineer or MCO, what it’s like today.

Owners treat Chief Engineers, especially at radio stations, like janitors who happen to have computer networking skills.  They are paid accordingly, not as Professional Engineers with a license, but as contract labor with no benefits, no insurance, and on call 24/7 while chained to a pager or a cell phone.

In my opinion, classifying Internet Service Providers as Title II utilities is not good.

Utilities are state-licensed monopolies.  Think of how many water companies you have to choose from, if you don’t see my point.  Licensing means franchise fees, which means taxes that companies will pass on to you.

Will the auction process apply to ISPs now?  The government reaps billions of dollars to reallocate radio spectrum, and the switch to digital television opened up Giga-Hertz of spectrum that could be used for nationwide broadband wireless internet.

The price you pay for a 50 MBps connection will go up.  It just will.

I don’t see this as a Republican or Democrat issue.  To me, it’s watching yet another slow motion train wreck instigated by a group of people who know nothing about the businesses or technologies they regulate.

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