Letter to the FCC Supporting Broadband Reclassification
The Honorable Julius Genachowski
Chairman - Federal Communications Commission
Dear Commissioner Genachowski,
I am writing to support the idea of reclassifying Internet connectivity as a telecommunications service.
The classification of Internet connectivity as an Information Service does not align with the actual relationship between connectivity and the Internet at large. While it is true that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) often provide some information services, such as email and web publishing space, these services are often secondary to the primary service that consumers expect from their ISPs - the unaltered transmission of data to and from other Internet accessible devices. Furthermore, the guiding technical principle of Internet design is to place intelligence; the capability of generating and altering content; at Internet endpoints. Internet connectivity is fundamentally important to this design as a simple communicative link between content generators or processors, not as a generator or processor itself, as the current classification of ISPs would suggest.
Beyond technical misalignment, there are principle-agent and constitutional issues resulting from the current connectivity market and classification. Information Services have a right to free expression that the government can not infringe. Internet users who are American citizens have this same right. Given current market structures and available technologies, Internet users, as principles, must employ an ISP as an agent to gain access to the Internet. Both users and the ISP have their own views and interests, and they both have the right to express those interests. However, since the ISP owns the equipment required by users for Internet access, the ISP is able to use its control of this equipment to express its interests and subsume the interests and views of users. Therefore, under the current classification of ISPs, American users seeking to exercise their freedom of speech must purchase connectivity service from an ISP whose views and/or connectivity practices are amiable to their own views and desires for speech expression. This means that the ability to engage in free expression has become contingent on a citizen's market power as a consumer. However, most access markets are monopolistic or duopolistic. Therefore, the consumer power of a citizen is often so small as to be nonexistent. Due to the current market and technical context, classification of ISPs as Information Services results in the superseding of an individual user's right to free speech by an ISP's right to free speech, a right that the ISP may use to express views and interests on behalf of individual users that differ from the true views and interests of those users. Considering these realities, the current classification of ISPs amounts to a government supported infringement of the freedom of expression of individual users and American citizens.
The April 6th ruling by the D.C. Court of Appeals is not a set-back. It is an opportunity to correct the improper classification that occurred eight years ago. Please use this opportunity to take whatever action is necessary, including FCC actions and requests for Congressional action, in order to reclassify Internet connectivity as a Telecommunications Service. This is the classification that accurately reflects the technical, market, and legal realities of connectivity and the Internet at large.
Candidate for Masters of Science - Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy
Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs - University of Minnesota
Member: Association of Computing Machinery