>> Depends. We regulate industries that are physically unable to compete, such as power lines and water/sewer systems. We also regulate certain aspects of other services, e.g. to promote interoperability, when this is necessary.
That is true except that the wireless industry in US does not seem to in competition until T-Mobile crashed the party by doing away with contracts etc. Now, the competition has started. Fo ages, they were not.
I am not sure who is competing with Amazon.com now. Facebook? Not sure. These are companies in their own sectors and they dominate. We are not truly in that oligapolistic state, but it will get there. It may not be a bad thing because what drives them is above them and that is microprocessor which sets the bar in the global commerce.
"If we agree that we need to regulate power, telecoms and gas companies in our cities,"
Depends. We regulate industries that are physically unable to compete, such as power lines and water/sewer systems. We also regulate certain aspects of other services, e.g. to promote interoperability, when this is necessary.
The IETF has been extremely successful already at "regulating" the interface standards, worldwide, for Internet access. I would suggest, for example, that the IETF is infinitely more successful at developing global standards than the FCC and similar bodies have been, at developing global standards for digital radio and digital TV. A PC or tablet can access the Internet anywhere in the world, either over IP/Ethernet or over IP/802.11. Can you say that for a TV or radio?
For VoIP, I don't think FCC needs to regulate what technology to use. The company can choose what they want to use. When it comes to interoperability, companies will just regulate themselves. For example, Skype has proprietary technology and yet, they provide a SIP interface to allow call to be established to SIP carrier.
In the same regular, I believe that FCC actually open VoIP market to other players, providing opportunities to a lot more players other than AT&T actually helps innovation.
Telecom business is an interesting business. First of all, telecommunication shall be a basic need to everyone. Business will be very difficult to run w/o telecommunication. Therefore, FCC comes into picture to make sure telco doesn't charge outrages price to provide service.
Secondly, no country will let go of telecommunication infrastructure for national security reason. So, the regulatory department, i.e. FCC, will make sure telcos provide a way to monitor traffic.
These shall explain, at least in VoIP, regulations are important. What role FCC shall play in other Internet services is another interesting topic. I don't think FCC has anything to do with whether, for example, Amazon Cloud Service stays in service. I do believe, though, FCC can put in place a recommendation that cloud services shall provide a mean to other companies to enter the playground.
Your example is a PERFECT reason to NOT do what you are asking! The reason the "'oligoploly" exists has its roots in the decision BY THE US GOVERNMENT (via the FCC) in mandating (popular term for the government!) the breakup of the the existing oligoploy of the Bell System, GTE, etc. plus a slew of mom-and-pop local rural telcos. That started in 1968 or so, and (no surpise) 45 years later we have even less head-to-head competition (except in the area of wireless). Nearly all of the small players have been gobbled up or otherwise consolidated (example is Frontier which reached survivable critical mass by acquiring a bunch of locals that had been swalliowed up by GTE/Verizon, but didn't fit into VZ long-term plans). You can't fight the natural trend for oligopolies with regulation! It ALWAYS fails in the long run. It's interesting that the EU, whose members long ran telecommunications as government monopolies, these days has more effective competition than most other places.
Talk to anyone in the business world, even academia: they'll all tell you that in the long run, 3-5 primary competitors provides optimum competition without giving up the efficiencies of scale. The only counterbalance needed in that case are the existing regulations against cartels and price-fixing activities.
The problem is not privacy. The key is that these ICT companies have become too big to fail. They need to be regulated. Imagine if Amazon Cloud Services goes bankrupt; it will cacade into the economy. As they become like municipal utilies at global level, we need to regulate them
>> So, I don't see why the FCC is needed now, to promote VoIP.
If we agree that we need to regulate power, telecoms and gas companies in our cities, I think it makes sense to regulate these ICT companies because there are basically oligapolies now. There are about 3-4 of them and no choices - technically no choices. That means we need to monitor what they do.
But here's the point, Rick. What is the FCC regulating in these other industries? That's key.
In radio and TV, the FCC regulates the transmission standard, including spectrum use, to ensure that the system is interoperable with any receiver, and usable by multiple simultaneous transmitters. Also, because these are public broadcast services, freely receivable by any receiver, the FCC regulates content. And finally, the FCC has rules to ensure that multiple voices are heard over the broadcast media. Even those rules, though, are subject to change, now that so many more voices can be heard via other media than just radio, TV, and newspapers.
In the telephone example, the FCC mainly acts as a revenue redistribution agency. It certainly doesn't regulate content, for example. Just because the FCC regulates content in radio and TV, are we to assume it must also regulate what you say during a private phone conversation? Of course not. But the FCC makes sure that every household be capable of having telephone service. For instance, though, the FCC wasn't out there pushing for fiber optics, multiplexing, or digital technologies for the telephone system, was it?
Now we come to the Internet. Should we jump at the opportunity to invent new regulatory powers for the FCC, just because it regulates radio, TV, and the telephone in different ways. I don't think so. The FCC may have a role in promoting broadband deployment, by shifting costs as it does in telephone lifeline service, it may have a role in regulating TV or radio content that is streamed openly over the Internet, but I see no excuse to give the FCC free reins in regulating a whole lot more than that. We don't want to FCC regulating your facebook page any more than we want the FCC to regulate the contents of your diary. And, to get back to the original point, I see no need for the FCC to "encourage" the telcos to adopt VoIP. That's outside their charter or their area of expertise. The telcos, via the IETF primarily, DEVELOPED VoIP, for heaven's sake. Who are these johnny-come-latelies telling them why VoIP is a good thing?
I know it is hard for our government to do, but it would be best for our economy if they would stay out of the way of business as much as possible. There are some things like the spectrum that need to be regulated. Maybe there should be security regulations that will keep the NSA out of the cloud.
Certainly the Internet has become a central part of the public network we use daily, like the phone, radio and TV the FCC was set up to regulate. That makes Google, Amazon, Facebook, Apple (iTunes) etc as much the focus for FCC oversight as ATT, Verizon, CBS, etc.
Clearly privacy/security has been a big part of the national conversation for awhile now. I'd love to hear any specific emerging issues we should be tracking that might not be on our radar today.
Before this "brand new" "cloud" concept was created, there used to be "the Internet." It was developed without a lot of help from FCC regulation. I think the FCC has a well-defined role as the spectrum manager, but I don't see a whole lot of value added when it comes to guiding the path to innovation.
For example, the telcos are acutely aware of the benefits of migrating to IP telephony, just as they were acutely aware of migrating to pulse dialing starting in the 1890s, line multiplexing around the 1910s, tone dialing and digital transmission in the 1960s, SONET/STM in the 1980s, and so on. These upgrades are introduced as soon as the telcos deem it financially possible, because they stand to benefit. As their old equipment depreciates, the new technologies are introduced. They know this better than anyone else.
So, I don't see why the FCC is needed now, to promote VoIP. The players, the movers and the shakers, are heavily represented in fora such as the IEEE and the IETF. And this is because their companies know they can benefit from system improvements, and that collaboration is required to set standards for systems that depend on interoperability.
Sometimes, the FCC is called upon to make a final selection from competing designs, or to make some instrumental, far-reaching spectrum decision. The FCC may provide unbiased testing of competing designs. And the FCC regulates the content that is carried on public networks. IMO these are all legitimate roles. Promoting a particular technical solution? I don't see it.