We have to decide what model for communications regulation we want. Do we want the carriers to decide what we do online, or do we want the carriers just to be carriers? ‘Online,’ ‘cell phone,’ ‘telephone,’ and ‘cable’ all feel the same to the consumer. It’s all just data traveling fast. The regulatory reluctance of the FCC and the weirdly out-of-date structure of the Communications Act are allowing for differential treatment of the same kinds of transactions—the FCC knows this, and so it is strongly leaning in the deregulatory direction. ‘We’ll treat everything the same way and everything will be a private network. The market will be victorious!’ But as a matter of social policy and our own future, we should sharply question that direction. We don’t have enough competition or enough enlightened, nondiscriminatory communications companies to allow us to be confident that the market will be able to do anything. We should move back towards common carriage for telecommunications—which will require that control over transport be separated from content.
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