The 1996 Telecommunications Act is 137 pages long. The first six titles of the act, and over 134 pages, deal exclusively with regulation of the broadcast, telephone, cable, and satellite television industries. In contrast, wireless and broadband technologies are not covered till Title VII’s “Miscellaneous Provisions”of the bill and cover only three pages.
Is it really just a coincidence that, since 1996, investment and growth in wireless and broadband have exploded while the viewership of both broadcast and cable television have fallen, along with use of the telephone? During that time companies have felt free to pour billions of dollars into wireless and broadband infrastructure because their is relatively little threat government regulation will thwart their investments in technology. But there has been a growing movement from the left to let the federal government begin to heavily regulate the internet.
This movement goes by the name “net neutrality” and its policy goal is new legislation from Congress and/or new regulations from the Federal Communications Commission that would allow the federal government to micromanage how companies manage internet traffic. The FCC has been holding hearings on the issue and net neutrality opponent and former FCC chairman Michael Powell observed:
If any of you had attended some of the net-neutrality hearings that have taken place under the auspices of the FCC, you watched a table of highly talented PhDs in network architecture battling over what practices constitute reasonable management and what practices constitute discrimination of bits. We’re not confident that that argument is right to be resolved by the United States Congress. You need to recognize that net-neutrality legislation would be the first fateful step of inviting the federal government to regulate the nature of the Internet.