The past few days have seen stories pop up on virtually every site I follow. Network Neutrality is about to go into effect as of November 20! Except that it won’t, and we all know that. What happened on Friday is the equivalent of the start of a nice game of T-Ball. Ok, maybe a not-so-nice game of T-Ball.
What a wonderful invention T-Ball is. Everyone gets to hit, the score is generally not kept, and in the end nobody cares or even remembers that they played.
By finally signing off on the FCC’s internet rules and publishing them in the Federal Register, the government has finally given Verizon and other opponents the chance to swing that bat they’ve been carrying around since Christmas. They won’t be swinging that bat at a knuckleball, or a fastball, or even a curveball. Just a stationary target that they are very unlikely to miss – I can find very few out there predicting the FCC has any chance to prevail in court. The lawsuits have already started, and that November effective date is effectively meaningless.
Of course, the government knew this would happen, and mysteriously delayed this step until the presidential campaign season was in full swing. Actually, it’s not so mysterious at all, because while legally net neutrality probably loses, politically it probably wins. And that gives proponents of network neutrality a nice free swing at their own stationary target when congressional Republicans try once again to make friends in their usual way.
Then maybe next year the FCC can tweak its regulations in a way that pretends to solve whatever problem the courts say it has, and we can play another inning.
In the meantime, the industry will experiment with throttling, perhaps dabble in blocking a few forms of content that it can get away with. But for the most part, network neutrality will be an unimplemented set of vague regulations that nevertheless has enough gravitas to prevent blatant violations. In other words, the status quo. Nothing happened on Friday. Just let the lawyers and politicians have their little game. It’ll keep them busy.
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