The Federal Communications Commission should head up to Capitol Hill, gather round a table with industry and advocacy groups, and cobble together a new set of rules for broadband, according to an editiorial in The Washington Post today:
For some eight years, the agency has argued that broadband constitutes an "information service" and that it should be subject only to a light regulatory touch. To reverse course now by classifying broadband as a telecommunications service would require the agency to throw out years of its own data and analysis. While agencies have broad latitude in reevaluating regulatory schemes, reversals should be linked to significant market shifts. The facts do not support such a conclusion, and the FCC should not now try to shoehorn broadband into an existing -- but incompatible -- regulatory scheme.
There haven't been relevant "market shifts" in the broadband realm? I've said in the past, and I'll say again, that as a strategic matter, open Internet groups have been extremely and perhaps overly quick to dismiss the idea that going to Congress and getting some long-term statutory authority crafted is the better play in the long run. Julius Genachowski's FCC might be looking at scoring a quick win on a technicality that could lead to a bumpy road ahead.
But it seems thoroughly odd for Fred Hiatt and Co. to argue that broadband reclassification is unwarranted because the Internet market is insufficiently different than what it was eight years ago. We're far more dependent on stand-alone Internet services than we were in 2002. That makes the separation of architecture and content an altogether distinct question today. Eight years ago was a different world. Eight years ago, there was no YouTube, no Hulu, no Gmail, no Twitter, no Skype, no iTunes, no iPhone, no iPad, and the AOL/Time Warner merger seemed like a pretty good idea.