Friday, May 7, 2010

New U.S. Push to Regulate Internet Access

Instead of letting the free market work out this problem between the providers and users, the FCC has decided to jump in. We can only hope it is not another Fannie/Freddie debacle. Of course it now looks like th users are the winners. By coincidence, they were the biggest contributors to Obama.

At stake is how far the FCC can go to dictate the way Internet providers manage traffic on their multibillion-dollar networks. For the past decade or so, the FCC has maintained a mostly hands-off approach to Internet regulation.

Internet giants like Google Inc., Inc. and eBay Inc., which want to offer more Web video and other high-bandwidth services, have called for stronger action by the FCC to assure free access to websites.

Cable and telecommunications executives have warned that using land-line phone rules to govern their management of Internet traffic would lead them to cut billions of capital expenditure for their networks, slash jobs and go to court to fight the rules.

Consumer groups hailed the decision Wednesday, an abrupt change from recent days, when they'd bombarded the FCC chairman with emails and phone calls imploring him to fight phone and cable companies lobbyists.

"On the surface it looks like a win for Internet companies," said Rebecca Arbogast, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus. "A lot will depend on the details of how this gets implemented."

"The question is how heavy a hand will the regulatory touch be," he said. "We don't know yet, so the devil is in the details. The network operators have to be able to treat some traffic on the Internet different than other traffic—most people agree that web video is different than an email to grandma. You have to discriminate in some fashion."

UBS analyst John Hodulik said the cable companies and carriers were likely to fight this in court "for years" and could accelerate their plans to wind down investment in their broadband networks.

"You could have regulators involved in every facet of providing Internet over time. How wholesale and prices are set, how networks are interconnected and requirements that they lease out portions of their network," he said.

Read WSJ article here.

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