Reviving the idea of common carriers

Martin Geddes says that network providers should be regulated as common carriers. He’s right, of course. There really is no other solution.

Common carriers can’t discriminate against either users or applications. This idea is older than telecom, going back to the regulation of railroads. In return for this loss of control, the carriers give up liability for how the network is used.

We’ve moved away from this idea because the telcos have always wanted to “add value” to their networks and they’ve managed to “persuade” the regulators that this will increase competition. Furthermore, Big Brother would like nothing better than for the networks to be its partners in controlling how we communicate. After all, the networks are private companies and are not bound by the first or fourth amendments.

What surprises me is that Martin says no one else is saying this. He may be right. I’ve only hesitated to say it before because I don’t understand the subtleties of common carrier status. But it seems like the only reasonable solution to me. Why aren’t more people talking about this?

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