2015: The year the battle for Net neutrality ends

One way or another, the Internet will change in 2015; let's hope it's for the better

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Early last year I wrote a column wherein I expanded on Cory Doctorow’s fear that we might lose the Web in 2014 and voiced a concern that we might lose the Internet itself -- or at least the Internet as we know it. Although we haven’t lost it yet, the threat is ever present.

What we saw in 2014 was posturing, ridiculous statements, and delays -- along with strong advocacy for Title II. The FCC delayed rulings on Net neutrality and the Time Warner/Comcast merger several times, and it extended the public comment periods (while still making a mess of it). However, they are poised to finally come to a decision this February.

[ Also on InfoWorld: Net neutrality is as simple as freedom vs. monopoly | Get expert networking how-to advice from InfoWorld's Networking Deep Dive PDF special report and Networking newsletter. ]

One can only hope that 2015 will be the year we finally put this monster behind us and lay the groundwork for the next few decades of technological advancement by classifying ISPs as the common carriers they are and have been all along. Fast and loose negotiations that led to gutless “policy statements” back in 2005 and the horrible classification of ISPs as information services in 2010 don’t change those facts. This can has been kicked down the road for decades, presumably due to the revolving door of government regulators becoming industry lobbyists and vice versa, passing the buck on meaningful regulation if they cannot defeat it outright.

I suppose that extending a battle until you achieve the outcome you desire is a viable tactic, which seems to be exactly what is happening right now. I also believe the drumbeat of Net neutrality is becoming too loud for even the most entrenched and bloodsucking lobbyist to ignore. However you cut the FCC comment response, there was a massive swell of public comments in favor of strong Net neutrality regulation and Title II classification of ISPs. These were private citizens that used any one of several different methods to voice their opinion to the FCC, whereas the bulk of the Net neutrality opposition came through a single lobbying group’s efforts.

That’s what we’re staring at as another new year begins: more of the same childish games and backhanded dealings that have led us to this mess in the first place. We do not need any more heavily funded “social welfare groups” subverting the process. We do not need any more equivocating by regulators who have clearly defined, close ties to the industries they’re supposed to be regulating. We need firm and decisive action.

We need both Title II classification of ISPs and the expansion of open networks that would foster actual, real competition, not the laughable "market" conditions that Comcast and Time Warner exploit now. We need only to look at the mobile market to see what real competition can do in terms of innovation and market success. We need that same model to be applied to broadband Internet services, and we get there via Title II classification and regulation.

There's nothing else to do now -- we must end the debate, end the nonsense, and secure the future of the Internet in 2015 with strong Net neutrality regulation. After all, other battles are waiting in the wings.

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