A Washington Post article this morning says the Obama FCC may be "leaning toward" siding with the largest phone and cable companies and against an open and universal Internet. The FCC may reconfirm the old George W. Bush decisions giving away FCC authority to protect citizens' right to access the Internet. (I hope it's not true.)
To do this, the FCC will decide to rest its decisions on hollow legal theories that would give them the appearance of following through on Obama campaign promises, knowing full well the pro-consumer decisions would be reversed after the mid-term elections. In doing so, the Obama FCC would be breaking Obama's most important pledge about the Internet--to support an open Internet.
If the Post story is predictive, there is almost no list of "horribles" that are not fair game. I'm listing ten. Most of these "horribles" have actually happened as business practices where the carriers got their way. And media companies are believed to refuse ads or stories that criticize them or oppose their position.
Comcast (or AT&T or Verizon or Time Warner Cable) could do any of the following and the FCC could do Big Fat Nothing:
(1) Block your tweets, if you criticize Comcast's service or its merger, especially if you use the #ComcastSucks hashtag.
(2) Block your vote to the consumerist.com, when you vote Comcast the worst company in the nation. No need for such traffic to get through.
(3) Force every candidate for election to register their campaign-donations webpage and abide by the same weird rules that apply to donations by text message.
(4) Comcast could even require a "processing fee," becoming the Ticketmaster of campaign contributions.
(5) Comcast could reserve the right to approve of every campaign online and every mass email to a political party's or advocacy group's list (as they do with text message short codes).
(6) If you create a small online business and hit it big, threaten to block your business unless you share 1/3 or more of all your revenues with them (apps on the iPhone app stores often are forced to give up a 1/3 or more; so are cable channels on cable TV).
(7) Block all peer to peer technologies, even those used for software developers to share software, distribute patches (world of warcraft), distribute open source software (Linux). In fact, Comcast has shown it would love to do this.
(8) Block Daily Kos, Talking Points Memo, Moveon.org (and its emails), because of an "exclusive" deal with other blogs. Or alternatively, block FoxNews.com because of a deal with NBC and MSNBC.
(9) Monitor everything you do online and sell it to advertisers, something else that some phone and cable have done, with the help of a shady spyware company.
(10) Lie to you about what they're blocking and what they're monitoring. Hell, the FCC wouldn't have any authority to make them honest. The FCC couldn't punish them.
It looks like the FCC hasn't crossed the rubicon (hasn't yet broken this Obama promise) but it looks like it's being considered.
It is not a middle path: it's a disaster for us and the dream of cable and telco executives everywhere.
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