June 27, 2005

Brand X

More flooding the zone from SCOTUSblog on the Grokster decision. Susan Crawford tells us not to worry about Grokster, which "gives certainty to tech companies." Worry instead about the Brand X decision, which "takes it away":
In BrandX, Justice Thomas gets very confused about the internet and ends up essentially announcing that everything a user does online is an "information service" being offered by the access provider. DNS, email (even if some other provider is making it available), applications, you name it -- they're all included in this package. And the FCC can make rules about these information services under its broad "ancillary jurisdiction."

This is very very big. This means that even though information services like IM and email don't have to pay tariffs or interconnect with others, they may (potentially) have to pay into the universal service fund, be subject to CALEA, provide enhanced 911 services, provide access to the disabled, and be subject to general consumer protection rules -- all the subjects of the FCC's IP-enabled services NPRM. I've blogged about this a good deal elsewhere, but I want the news to be heard here: the FCC is now squarely in charge of all internet-protocol enabled services.
Well… I've been googling around trying to figure out what, exactly, this means in plain English, to a technically-inept American like myself, but frankly, I have no idea. Presumably the decision affects competition in some undefined way. And consumer groups were in Brand X's camp, so that seems good? Uhhh...
-- Brad Plumer 10:24 PM || ||