21 votes

SCOTUS justice Clarence Thomas argues for regulating large internet platforms as common carriers

7 comments

  1. [4]
    frostycakes
    Link
    Can we get actual physical facilities-based ISPs declared as common carriers too then while we're at it? I can't believe we might see Facebook and Twitter declared common carriers before Comcast...

    Can we get actual physical facilities-based ISPs declared as common carriers too then while we're at it? I can't believe we might see Facebook and Twitter declared common carriers before Comcast and Verizon. If we're going to do this to the services running on the internet, why are the physical internet lines still exempt?

    21 votes
    1. [3]
      entangledamplitude
      Link Parent
      I’m definitely not fond of large cellular/internet service providers, but none of them block you from connecting with people using other service providers (thanks to a previous generation of...

      I’m definitely not fond of large cellular/internet service providers, but none of them block you from connecting with people using other service providers (thanks to a previous generation of common carriers regulation), so there’s at least in-principle potential for market mechanisms to sort things out.

      3 votes
      1. [2]
        frostycakes
        Link Parent
        Regardless, the literal physical network analog to telephone service not being treated as a common carrier while services running on top of it are just seems utterly illogical to me. Market...

        Regardless, the literal physical network analog to telephone service not being treated as a common carrier while services running on top of it are just seems utterly illogical to me. Market mechanisms don't work all that great when you have a duopoly or a functional monopoly on the service providers themselves, though.

        Having worked for one of said mega-ISPs in the past, they absolutely would do that if they thought they could get away with it. It's the old "we don't care, we don't have to, we're the phone companyISP" attitude.

        Making web services common carriers without making ISPs themselves ones as well just reeks of blatant political goals on the part of Thomas and his party as a whole. If Facebook can be analogized to the telephone wires, what argument can be used to say that the fiber/coax/twisted pair lines that deliver internet service are not? In the case of twisted pair, they're literally the same lines that are common carriers for voice data sent over them, but once it's internet data it's not, apparently.

        I just don't see how that makes any sense at all.

        15 votes
        1. vord
          Link Parent
          Yup. Wires are a natural monopoly. Nationalize them or heavily regulate them and lease access out to ISPs. Worked well enough for dialup, will work 10x better for broadband.

          Yup. Wires are a natural monopoly. Nationalize them or heavily regulate them and lease access out to ISPs.

          Worked well enough for dialup, will work 10x better for broadband.

          5 votes
  2. [3]
    entangledamplitude
    (edited )
    Link
    The actual written statement is also quite readable, and raises interesting questions. https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/20579870/order-list-04_05_2021.pdf — In my opinion, breaking...

    The actual written statement is also quite readable, and raises interesting questions. https://assets.documentcloud.org/documents/20579870/order-list-04_05_2021.pdf

    In my opinion, breaking vertical integration to settle on a common federated protocol plus competing front end services is probably a very healthy move for the longer term (much like what happened with the telephone). It’s interesting to see that this matter has garnered sufficient thought cycles at the very highest levels (also, about damn time!), leading to the above statement which is probably intended to clarify (a partial understanding of the SC’s take on) the current landscape, for lower courts and legislators.

    9 votes
    1. [2]
      nacho
      Link Parent
      If only the legislators would, you know, legislate so it wasn't up to the courts deciding this decades overdue based on (necessarily) old laws that didn't consider this. When laws are hundreds or...

      If only the legislators would, you know, legislate so it wasn't up to the courts deciding this decades overdue based on (necessarily) old laws that didn't consider this.

      When laws are hundreds or thousands of pages, they're almost always technology specific. As technology develops ever quicker, that in itself is a huge problem.


      I think it's very interesting Thomas is the author of the opinion. It seems almost written to get at public debate on the issue with language like this section:

      Though digital instead of physical, they are at bottom communications networks, and they “carry” information from
      one user to another. A traditional telephone company laid
      physical wires to create a network connecting people. Digital platforms lay information infrastructure that can be
      controlled in much the same way. And unlike newspapers,
      digital platforms hold themselves out as organizations that
      focus on distributing the speech of the broader public. Federal law dictates that companies cannot “be treated as the
      publisher or speaker” of information that they merely distribute. 110 Stat. 137, 47 U. S. C. §230(c).

      I have to say it's surprising that even someone as conservative as Thomas then immediately goes on to elaborate:

      The analogy to common carriers is even clearer for digital
      platforms that have dominant market share

      The ruling was surprisingly uplifting news for those of us in networking in various ways.

      5 votes
      1. raze2012
        Link Parent
        Even a perfectly aligned congress in in some utopic would wouldn't be fast enough to keep up with legislation given how fast tech advances. I imagine it took decades to fully settle how phone...

        If only the legislators would, you know, legislate so it wasn't up to the courts deciding this decades overdue based on (necessarily) old laws that didn't consider this.

        Even a perfectly aligned congress in in some utopic would wouldn't be fast enough to keep up with legislation given how fast tech advances. I imagine it took decades to fully settle how phone lines worked as well. And we STILL don't have anything concerning cable lines.

        5 votes