It Ain't "Network" Neutrality … It's "Internetwork" Neutrality

By Paul Maxwell Report Archives
Cover image for  article: It Ain't "Network" Neutrality … It's "Internetwork" Neutrality

A federal judge recently gave a green light to California to actually enforce the statewide (in one state only) network neutrality laws the state passed in September of 2018. Suits will be filed to attempt to block actual enforcement based on the negative effects the possibility of some 50 other statewide (plus D.C.?) differing laws might cause. This seems like a good time to listen to Brian Roberts (as mentioned below) and get to work on creating a workable nationwide law -- right now!

So far, what we've got are sort of "serious" suggestions -- a panoply of here's-what-we-need-to-do guidance from the revolving doors of the Wheeler to Pai to Rosenworcel governing body. To a degree, that's fine with today's internetwork universe (not counting users). Of course, the guidance lines are continually getting nudged. Like with Disney+ and Hulu for Verizon subscribers. Or Peacock+ free or discounted for Comcast subscribers ... or even whatever works this week for T-Mobile subs. The big guys are always looking for a way to carve out a new edge, even if it doesn't meet the same-rules-for-everybody creeds.

But is this really the way to run a behemoth, still burgeoning mega-business that today encompasses just about everything and anything having to do with communication? Instead of playing whack-a-mole whenever the transgressions get too egregious, wouldn't it be better to craft well-understood rules and then set them in stone?

It would help businesses make better sense of themselves. It would help consumers understand the (currently) amorphous monster that runs much of their lives. And it might even result in a more coherent mega-media universe that could conduct itself efficiently to make our lives … well, better instead of more fractious.

So, could it happen? Perhaps, if after some settling down post-pandemic, reasonable folks could get together in the same room and actually discuss things. Could be that'll happen as hearings get underway for Senator Amy Klobuchar's new tech-aimed antitrust bill hit the right committee or committees. While the bill isn't aimed at the Federal Confusion Commission directly, hearings with the Antitrust subcommittee that she chairs will necessarily involve the internet … and whatever her subcommittee reports out will necessarily involve the FCC, too.

It certainly wouldn't hurt to be part of the discussions … and they might just find some of the more reasonable practitioners like Comcast's Brian Roberts (no kidding!) who told a questioner at his last earnings call, "If there's a way to codify that (i.e. the "light-touch" rules) and perhaps put this issue in a permanent more consistent place, that's certainly a possibility."

Nice idea. I won't hold my breath, but I do hope some sanity about this never-fully-deceased issue might prevail!

Random Notes

Meanwhile, in either a major 1st Amendment attack on American media or an attempt to find a way to promote accurate and reliable information, Representatives Anna Eshoo and Jerry McNerney wrote to the CEOs of Alphabet, Altice USA, Amazon, Apple, AT&T, Charter, Comcast, Cox, Dish, Hulu, Roku and Verizon alleging a plague of misinformation and asking these seven questions:

1. "What moral or ethical principles (including those related to journalistic integrity, violence, medical information and public health) do you apply in deciding which channels to carry or when to take adverse actions against a channel?

2. "Do you require, through contracts or otherwise, that the channels you carry abide by any content guidelines? If so, please provide a copy of the guidelines.

3. "How many of your subscribers tuned in to Fox News and Newsmax on Optimum and Suddenlink for each of the four weeks preceding the November 3, 2020 elections and the January 6, 2021 attacks on the Capitol? Please specify the number of subscribers that tuned in to each channel.

4. "What steps did you take prior to, on, and following the November 3, 2020 elections and the January 6, 2021 attacks to monitor, respond to, and reduce the spread of disinformation, including encouragement or incitement of violence by channels your company disseminates to millions of Americans? Please describe each step that you took and when it was taken.

5. "Have you taken any adverse actions against a channel, including Fox News and Newsmax, for using your platform to disseminate disinformation related directly or indirectly to the November 3, 2020 elections, the January 6, 2021 Capitol insurrection, or COVID-19 misinformation? If yes, please describe each action, when it was taken, and the parties involved.

6. "Have you ever taken any actions against a channel for using your platform to disseminate any disinformation? If yes, please describe each action and when it was taken.

7. "Are you planning to continue carrying Fox News and Newsmax on Optimum and Suddenlink both now and beyond any contract renewal date? If so, why?"

I can't wait for the answers!

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