Jessica Rosenworcel And the Mantle of Michael Copps

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) moved forward on the transition of the phone system by adopting an order at its February open meeting. By a 5-0 vote, in addition to a number of other important first steps, the FCC adopted a set of governing principles for the transition. The principles focus on core values: Universal Service, Consumer protection, Competition, and Public Safety.


These principles did not just drop out of thin air.  Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel first proposed them in this speech in December of 2012. While few have noticed, Rosenworcel continued to quietly and effectively push this framework, culminating in a unanimous vote with broad approval from both corporations and public interest groups.


More amazing for this hyper-partisan and contentious times, the principles capture both progressive values and conservative values, traditionally shared by Republicans and Democrats alike. The idea that access to communications services is so essential to participation in society that the Federal government has a role in making sure that ALL Americans have affordable access goes back to the New Deal and Section 1 of the Communications Act. But the basic precept is even older, going all the way back to Founding Fathers. Article I of the Constitution gives Congress the express power “to establish post offices and post roads” in recognition that ensuring that all Americans can communicate with each other is what helps make us a single country and one people — a core conservative value. As the arteries of commerce and the means of communication have evolved from post roads and post offices to steam trains and telegraphs to the automobile and the telephone, we have continued to preserve this idea of universal service to All Americans as a core traditional value of what it means to be an American.


But as essential and shared as these values are, no one was talking about them as the basis for the Phone Transition, or how to bring them forward into what Chairman Wheeler calls “The Fourth Network Revolution,” until Commissioner Rosenworcel started the conversation. From the time AT&T first proposed a “sunset of the Public Switched Telephone Network” during the National Broadband Plan in 2009 until Rosenworcel’s December 2012 speech, no one even talked about values – let alone proposed that a set of fundamental values needed to guide the transition. The conversation remained mired — and stalled — in myopic focus and bickering on the details of specific regulations. Commissioner Rosenworcel understood well before anyone else that the best way to move forward, and the way to keep the process firmly centered on the public interest, required reaffirming our fundamental values as the first step.

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Impact of Net Neutrality Decision On The Phone Transition, or “What Happens When You Can’t Make The Phone Service Work Like A Phone.”

I suppose I can best sum this up as “sucks to be rural.” On the plus side, it looks like all those lobbyists who went around getting states to pass laws prohibiting any kind of regulation of IP-based services and prohibiting local governments from offering broadband service wasted their money.

Also on the plus side, we can regulate the crap out of IP-based phone services to enhance consumer protection because it is all part of the virtuous circle of innovation. On the downside, if you are Mosque in the middle of small town USA, your local VOIP provider can now totally refuse to serve you. Sure, the fact that we cannot impose a duty to indiscriminately serve the public on VOIP providers (since that is the “hallmark of common carriage”) will only impact a statistically small number of people like the poor, the unpopular, and those in high cost rural areas. But screw it. Protecting the weak and helpless is soooo ‘New Deal.’ Who the #$@! needs a rule of law when we got markets baby!

Sure, some people we like might get rolled over by big companies and have no recourse. But ya know what? Who cares. Cause if a few big companies accidentally run over a few customers now and then, does that really matter? I mean, really?

And the best part of getting rid of that dumb old common carriage stuff? All the people that matter — like the judges making the decisions and the lobbyists arguing how we don’t need this stuff — will never even notice.  They never even have to deal with all those annoying weak, poor, vulnerable or unpopular people that the law protects. It’s like getting rid of the 4th Amendment, or stop and frisk, you only miss it if you’re someone we don’t give a crap about.

Read below to preview the exciting new world that now awaits us as “the fourth network revolution” meets “I can’t do rural call completion but I’m too scared to make VOIP Title II. So suck it rural.”

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Quick First Cut On Network Neutrality Decision — State of Net Neutrality Today

 I will, eventually, have time to write up a full dissection of he D.C. Circuit’s latest magnum opus on Net Neutrality, Verizon v. FCC.  Until then, I am going to be recycling here posts I wrote and posted on the blog of my employer Public Knowledge. i also highly recommend this blog post from my Public Knowledge colleague Clarissa Ramon on the impact of this decision and Monday’s D.C. Circuit Order staying the FCC’s August decision to regulate the outrageous phone rates charged by prison phone companies communities of color.


Below, the current — and now thoroughly confused — state of Net Neutrality and FCC authority as it stands today.

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