The Washington Post’s technology writer Cecilia Kang on Monday night characterizes also Genachowski’s proposal as an expansion of government control, writing that it “seeks to add teeth” to current policy. The lead:

Federal regulators are poised to enact controversial new rules affecting Internet access, marking the government’s strongest move yet to ensure that Facebook updates, Google searches and Skype calls reach consumers’ homes unimpeded.

Under the regulations, companies that carry the Internet into American homes would not be allowed to block Web sites that offer rival services, nor would they be permitted to play favorites by dividing delivery of Internet content into fast and slow lanes.

“Fast and slow lanes” on the information superhighway—one of two commonly cited metaphors for regulation of the Web. Copps used this meme himself when he spoke earlier in the month at The Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism about the need for strengthening regulation in broadcast media. He referenced Columbia Law professor Tim Wu’s book The Master Switch, which uses case studies from previous communication technologies—like radio, film, network television, and cable—to demonstrate how media consolidation and corporatization could also potentially imperil an open Internet.

“And while [Wu] doesn’t believe the Internet is necessarily doomed to tread the same destructive path, surely we see signs that it could,” Copps said. “Consolidation is already well-advanced, and businesses are clearly dreaming about on-ramps with toll booths dotting the information highway.”

The second comparison that persists in reporting on FCC policy, usually to defend Internet providers’ right to offer tiered/prioritized service, is the comparison to cable television. For instance, Wilson Rothman, writing on the Technolog blog on MSNBC.com, finishes his post on Tuesday with these thoughts:

I don’t mean to present some dystopian pay-for-play future where we’ll all walk around with virtual taxi meters on our heads. I think that for the most part, the regulation — and the lack of regulation — will manifest itself in new services. It’s like cable TV. First there was a basic subscription, then there were premiums, now there are 30,000 options, all listed with nickel-and-dime rates or in shiny bundles. We complain about the increasing cost of cable, and some (though not many) of us jump ship. But we do get more than before.

That’s how it’s going to play out — you’ll get more, you’ll pay for more.

As more details come out about the commission’s new rules and just how the FCC hopes to enforce them—and as the bluster persists—we’ll continue to follow the developments.


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Lauren Kirchner is a freelance writer covering digital security for CJR. Find her on Twitter at @lkirchner