The millennial generation is a generation unlike any other. We have touch screen computers, and iPhones that listen to our every demand such as, ‘Siri, can you remind me to take out my laundry in ten minutes?’ We engage on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook that allow us to share any detail of our lives- at any given moment. We are in constant communication whether it’s watching the daily news, browsing the Internet, or sending out a tweet. Yet, we don’t always associate the media with the Federal Communications Commission. We barely hear of the FCC. How does the FCC protect the public when it comes to media-related regulations? Is it really needed?
The Federal Communications Commission is an agency that few people know about, or know what its sole purpose. The one responsibility the FCC has is to regulate communication networks within the public sphere. Congress has authorized the FCC with an official order that states that they shall regulate and control the country’s communications networks according to the best interest of the general public. Communications networks aren’t the only media subject to regulation. The FCC has power over other consumer technologies such as smartphones, cellular companies, and even Wi-Fi. Although all these outlets need regulation, is there such thing as too much regulation?
President Obama has asked the FCC to regulate the Internet. The Internet is a virtual space that no one really owns, so what is net-neutrality? Net neutrality is the concept that Internet service providers should allow access to all content and applications regardless of the source, and without favoring or blocking particular products or websites. The fear here is that Internet service providers (ISP) can take full of advantage by profiting over Internet speed. They can sell their service packages according to Internet access because they have the technology to increase and decrease speeds. This power can heavily interfere the media market.
Major media companies can essentially pay corporations a significantly higher amount of money for priority service. A company such as Zara, being the fashion mogul that it is, can pay for quality service whereas an online shopping startup such as Miss Guided for example, cannot. The issue of net neutrality supporters is not that major media outlets will find a new way to fight with each other for market share, but that everyone else—bloggers, niche news sources and small websites in general—will be priced out of the market for priority service and consigned to a much poorer internet experience.
In early 2015, the FCC ruled some heavy regulation on the Internet. They began with reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunication service. This works to their advantage because it is subject to more regulation than normal. They also made it illegal for ISP to charge for priority service so that wealthy content providers cannot take advantage. It is also now illegal for ISP to increase or decrease internet speed for a fee. Many agree with this notion, while others think it was unnecessary.
Advocators believed that these rulings would keep the Internet ‘open and free’. Peter Gregory, Research Fellow at the Institute of Public affairs believes net neutrality to be a techno socialism, stating the following,
Net neutrality is simply techno socialism—the application of an economic system to an innovation it itself could never have created. Indeed, the FCC rulings betray the free and unbridled pioneer spirit of the internet itself
The Internet is an open and free space, and indeed it should be left as such.
1. Skorup, B. Who Needs the FCC? National Affairs, 26, p36-51
2. Gregory, P. Net Neutrality is Techno Socialism. Institute of Public Affairs Review, 67(2), p32-35.