The winds of change are blowing hurricane-force in Washington. Every politician in town knows it. So the natural inclination is to push the envelope as far as possible, knowing that it will be pulled back fairly quickly.
This is as true regarding the Internet as anywhere else. The Bell-cable duopoly hangs by a thread. Wireless ISPs have Moore's Law on their side. The incumbents need something very strong to counter.
This is precisely what they're going for with a bill in the House that would raise entry barriers to the sky and prevent independent ISPs from ever gaining a market toehold. (That's the chairman of the committee proposing the legislation, Joe Barton, up above.)
Naturally they call it "pro-competitive," but in the Orwellian Washington of today those with a Clue should never listen to what they say but look at what they do.
The bill is also filled with goodies for broadcasters and TV networks, such as:
- Imposition of broadcast content regulation on the Internet.
- Forced licensing of all broadband ISPs.
- VOIP fully regulated, with providers taxed for the Bell's "Universal Service Fund."
Internet broadband is to be treated as broadcast in order to censor it, and to be treated as telephony in order to keep out competition.
The excuse is this is a re-write of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, which mandated competition for the incumbents and displayed a complete "hands-off" attitude toward what went over the pipes.
Am I worried? Not really.
Here's what ranking member John Dingell said about the bill. "This staff draft is a very useful starting point in the process." And that's all it is. John McCain chairs the equivalent Senate committee. This bill has barely started on the path toward law.
And I guarantee it will be overtaken by events. Just put it up as a marker against anyone who supports it. They want to control what you'll read, what you'll see, how you'll use the Internet and who you'll buy it from, forevermore. They're out in the open about it. Despite the Orwellian rhetoric, they're Soviets.
And that's good to know.