FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler gave a speech today to explain the FCC's position on the growth of broadband networks, showing a much more aggressive stance when it comes to upholding broadband regulations.
Although we aren't used to thinking of broadband in this way, Wheeler posited that the speed and coverage of broadband should expand just like everything else in the computerized world. For the development of silicon chips, we have Moore's Law, which has pushed our technology forward.
Over the last 50 years we have moved from relatively simple systems utilizing 4004 micro processors to the latest quad-core, hyper-threaded, i7-5775c with over a hundred Gigaflops of processing power. As a result, we are accustomed to the rapid development of computer systems, so why not our networks?
During the 1990s and early 2000s, the Internet underwent tremendous advancement and grew at a rate that computers would be impressed with, but that has arguably slowed, and ISPs bear some of the blame. Wheeler said that Moore's Law in fact applies to the development of the Internet, or at least it should, and the hardware used to provide Internet service has substantially decreased.
Because the hardware is cheaper, the cost to maintain the old systems has also decreased, and the cost of providing broadband Internet has decreased, but the price you pay for this service has not. In the past, ISPs have refused to upgrade their systems. The companies used arguments about not having sufficient incentives, the fact that networks were still running fine, and other regulations to defend their stance. Because companies could continue to charge full price for the service regardless of how slow it was, they didn't have much incentive.
Well, the FCC has had enough. Wheeler said that the FCC will no longer let "imaginary" concerns about investment incentives and utility regulations be used to dissuade policies that encourage fast, fair and open broadband. Simply having the Internet working in most areas isn't enough anymore; it needs to be everywhere, it needs to be affordable, and it needs to be fast.
Currently, some major ISPs are opposing the FCC's Open Internet regulations, claiming that it discourages the companies from investing in upgrading their networks. Likely, if these companies continue to oppose upgrading, then the FCC will further its support of municipal broadband networks to usurp control of the Internet from the ISPs in these areas.
CEOs from Sprint, T-Mobile, Cablevision, Charter and Frontier have publicly declared that the Title II regulation does not discourage them from investing. Other companies such as AT&T, Bright House, CenturyLink, Cincinnati Bell, Comcast, Cox Cable, TDS Telecom and Time Warner Cable have made plans to expand their broadband service following the Open Internet announcements.
These plans have been announced despite some of these same companies continuing to oppose the FCC's Open Internet regulations, likely to avoid the FCC trying to push harder for municipal broadband networks.
Despite the FCC's new no-nonsense attitude when it comes to enforcing Internet regulations, Wheeler doesn't want people to get the wrong impression about the FCC and the oversight committee. Wheeler stated that he keeps describing the FCC's role as a referee, not a player, and the FCC's strong stance might appear otherwise, but that is how Wheeler wants it to stay.