© 2020 Texas Public Radio
Real. Reliable. Texas Public Radio.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
Available On Air Stations

The Source: Will The Internet Be Considered A Utility?


 

#130405786 / gettyimages.com

For the past year the Federal Communications Commission has been working towards new rules to govern telecommunications, specifically broadband and internet delivery. As telecommunication giants like Time-Warner ask to merge with Comcast and AT&T tries to grab up DirecTV, the idea that the FCC would pass anything approaching revolutionary was off the radar. 

For months the independent federal agency has been hinting that it would pass new rules allowing internet providers to sell faster service to certain websites. These "fast lane" rule changes have caused widespread protest from a variety of groups.

Large websites like Netflix and Google came out against it, and so did average citizens, with record amounts of comments crashing the FCC's website earlier this year.

That all changed last week when President Obama announced his support for regulating internet as a utility like water or electricity. 

"I'm asking them [The FCC] to recognize that, for most Americans, the internet has become an essential part of communication and everyday life." - President Barack Obama

The FCC can choose to ignore the president as they operate with a congressional mandate outside of his purview. 

Texas Senator Ted Cruz came out last Friday against the President's plan arguing this action would freeze the internet business in its place, and no future innovations could occur. 

The bad customer service record of these large internet providers coupled with their below average speeds, as compared to other nations, have made them ripe for criticism. Large lobbying efforts across the country and here in Texas have led to anti-compete laws that bar municipal actors in the broadband arena, so that city's who believe they could provide the service better and cheaper are legally barred from doing so.

In Colorado, 7 communities, the largest being Boulder, recently voted to opt-out of their state law barring them from starting their own provider.

Closer to home the San Antonio Area Broadband Network is working to access the city's already-installed fiber-optic backbone, to connect large institutions like UTSA, medical organizations, research institutions and municipal organizations together at a significant cost savings. 

What is the future looking like for the internet? 

Guests:

  • Corynne McSherry, intellectual property director at the Electronic Frontier Foundation
  • Leticia Ozuna, former city council member who helped found the San Antonio Area Broadband Network
Paul Flahive can be reached at Paul@tpr.org and on Twitter at @paulflahive