The House of Lords, the upper chamber of the United Kingdom’s parliment, has decided that the Internet across the pond should be regulated as a public utility as well, following in the footsteps of US FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who recently called for a similar approach stateside. Apparently the prevailing wisdom among UK policy makers is that the government has an important role to play in encouraging deployment of web infrastructure. This is a markedly different position than that of domestic cable and telecom companies who warn that more government involvement will stifle investment in infrastructure, not buoy it.
Lawmakers in the UK raised concerns that falling behind other countries in terms of internet speeds and access could harm efforts to keep their own nation competitive internationally. Similar warnings seem to fall on deaf ears in the United States, where internet access and average speeds compare relatively poorly to other nations, despite an often higher price tag. With US ISPs, miffed by the FCC’s recent net neutrality proposal, threatening both lawsuits, and to halt their own fiber rollouts, things could be more likely to get worse before they get better. It remains to be seen whether Chairman Wheeler’s approach utilizing Title II of the Telecommunications Act, better known as public utility-style regulation will survive the legal challenges and lobbying campaigns against it.
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