Widgets Magazine

FCC: Frequently Changing Course

For those of you keeping up with AVWeek, I was a guest the day after Thanksgiving. We had a great chat on the show about certification and the direction that InfoComm is taking to expand it overseas. At the end of the show, though, Tim mentioned that you’d be hearing from him and me about a story that we didn’t have time to cover. The story in question was one from The Washington Post that discussed members of the Trump administration’s FCC transition team and recent comments that one of them made about how the FCC should be dissolved and its responsibilities dispersed to other unspecified agencies or groups.
The man making these statements, Mark Jamison, is a telecommuncations lobbyist in Washintong, D.C. Making claims regarding whether the FCC has outlived its usefulness coming from a person that is literally paid to sway them to the benefits of the very organizations it governs is not a new sentiment in the ongoing battle between government action being taken that benefits the public at the expense of corporations.
It’s no secret how hard the telecommunications industry fought against recent FCC regulations, specifically the Open Internet Rules and the new regulations over how ISPs must protect user’s data for privacy concerns. While these rules are imperfect, they are a start in moving things in the right direction to ensure that there are (mostly) equal rights in the use of the Internet for communication and that our data is protected by those we are entrusting to facilitate that communication.
The idea that the FCC should be eliminated is just absurd. The entire premise of the FCC is that it is an independent government agency out to protect the public interest by creating rules and regulations over signals that are transported by wire, terrestrial broadcast or satellite. The Trump transition team for the FCC is now filling up with people that have been adamantly opposed to the Net Neutrality regulations. Many people, including me, means that these rules will be weakened, stripped, or even repealed entirely. The phrase that I’ve started seeing pop up a little more over this expected action is that if you pass non-bipartisan rules then you should expect them to be repealed when you lose power.
It’s generally sad that we have reached a point as a society where there is no middle ground anymore. There’s an “us” and a “them” and that’s just how things are. If you’re not with us, you’re against us. The idea of government, albeit slightly idealistic, is an independent body that’s looking out for the greater good of society. Yes, there can be multiple views of what that greater good looks like but there is also the idea that there can be compromise in order to help benefit more than are injured by a circumstance. In this case, that lack of compromise on both accounts has placed the ability for United States citizens to communicate potentially in the hands of corporations and the agency built to act as their watchdog in the hands of at least one person that wishes to see it disbanded.
Are the Republicans that are seeking a repeal of the Open Internet Rules wrong for doing so? It can be, and has been, argued that they are no more wrong than the Democrats were for forcing the action. The thing is, though, that the Rules themselves are beneficial to society overall by ensuring that all information accessible from any web browser. That means that regardless of economic status, race, religion, or creed, we, as residents of the Unite States, all have access to the same information and that cannot be regulated, limited, or restricted in any way by the companies that are paid to connect us to that information. Placing control of the access to information back in the hands of those that are only interested in profiting off of our ability to access that information is a direct conflict of public interest.
These references completely ignore all the other responsibilities of the FCC – spectrum governance and auctions, serving those with disabilities, and continuing to oversee telephone communications are just a few of the other things the FCC oversees. We must continue to stand up and say that swinging to extremes, in either direction, is not a good idea. The public interest outweighs corporate profitability every single time.
The detraction that is often used against the Open Internet Rules is that it doesn’t promote more competition and that is of greater concern because of the lack of evidence that the ISPs were restricting or throttling data. The thing is, why would we want to be an example to the rest of the world that allowing corporations to control public communications is ok? Eliminating the FCC, or even just eliminating the Open Internet Rules, will show that our new government representatives care less about moving the country forward by promoting equal access to information and more about winning the battle against their opponent and swaying in favor of big business.
To take action, call your government representatives and let them know the importance of protecting the FCC.

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