Following the rising immorality and indecency over the internet, a lot of questions arise on what bodies deemed with responsibility of overseeing communication, are doing to that effect. Bodies such as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) of the United States is one the bodies whose responsibilities cover a wide range of the communication sector from radio and television broadcasting to the internet. Gaining its power and authority from the Congress, and seconded by the federal law, the FCC reviews whatever is being aired and decides on its validity to be broadcasted. The FCC has regulations set for cable and public television different from the rules for the open internet. It is with this difference that concerns rise on what regulations the FCC has on the Internet. This paper seeks to display the reasons for the not-yet existing regulations on the internet and the fate of such regulations ever being, after the entertainment industry achieves complete streaming on the internet. In addition, it will mention whether or not it is possible for the FCC to set regulations for the internet, similar to those for cable and public television.
In the year 1996, the United States government made its first attempt to have control over the internet. The United States Congress passed the Communications Decency Act (CDA), which is Section 502(1) of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 in Title V, with the intention of controlling content of pornography on the internet (Wong, 2008). Today, the FCC has no regulations pertaining to the internet and the content found therein. On the contrary, it has rules which ensure that nothing and no organization/body possessing whatever power/authority interferes with innovation over the internet. On the other hand, the FCC is vigilant on the content of the programs being aired over cable and public television.
While the content in the internet is no concern of the FCC, every inch of the content in the cable and public television is under the eagle’s eye of the FCC. Content over cable and public television is prohibited to be aired if found to be in any way obscene, indecent or profane. Obscene material and broadcasts are not allowed to be aired at any time since the First Amendment to the constitution of the United States does not protect it (FCC, 2011). The obscenity of a material is determined by performing three prolonged tests. Indecent and profane broadcasts are not completely prohibited but only restricted during certain times when children are most vulnerable to that information. According to the set regulations, the restriction time is between 6:00 am and 10:00 pm. The court ruled that the First Amendment protects indecency and profanity and cannot therefore be completely prohibited (FCC, 2011). Stations that violate these regulations are prone to revocation of their licenses, imposition of monetary forfeiture and warnings from the Federal Communications Commission.
Now since the FCC has regulations for the cable and public television, there are great expectations that the internet should have similar if not close, such regulations. This is however not the case because the FCC plays a different task in controlling the internet. What task is this? Why are they different from normal regulations? The FCC has rules. Rules intended to protect the free use of the internet according to the standards of public availability. Rules that advocate for innovation and creativity meant for the boosting competition in various sectors including business, education, entertainment and jobs creation.
Transparency as one of the rules states that Broadband providers are obligated to give information pertaining to their network management practices, performance, and the commercial terms of their broadband services (FCC, 2011). As it is the responsibility of the FCC, the transparency rule actually protects the internet users and makes sure that they are not being manipulated when it comes to the charging rates. The information disclosed by the broadband providers is analyzed and made sure that its customers are safely and fairly charged.
Rule number two prohibits the broadband providers from blocking lawful content, applications, services and devices that are not harmful (FCC, 2011). They are not to block other websites that may pose competition to the services they provide. Since the FCC protects the internet to enable innovation and competition, this rule is one step to ensure that. The rule allows the internet users to access better services from the best broadband provider. Repercussions await the broadband providers that dare to block services from websites competing with them.
Finally, the FCC prevents fixed broadband providers from unreasonable discrimination in the transmission of lawful network over broadband Internet access service of consumers. This, according to the FCC, could favor only some services of websites with poor, slower and lower quality (Cohen, 2007).
Aside from the rules, the FCC ensures that use of the broadband is equal for both heavy users and light users. In addition it ensures that the broadband providers make the traffic over the internet flexible, efficient and reliable. There are heavy users and light users of the internet. The combination of all of them creates a situation known as crowding. Broadband providers are expected to handle that situation, making sure that the heavy users don’t crowd out the light users.
The FCC does not set regulations of the content because the federal laws do not cover matters concerning the internet’s content. Its authority/power does not allow this procedure. The Supreme Court in the, year 1997, made a decision not to regulate content of the internet basing its reason on the medium through which content goes through to reach its audience (Wong, 2008). The Supreme Court argued that indecent material/content is protected by the First Amendment and unlike radio and television the access to indecent speech is seldom. Due to that, regulations cannot be set on the content of the internet.
Despite the absence of indecency regulations on the internet, efforts are still working towards preventing, restricting or reducing access to this kind of content. The lack of the expected regulations is not a free ticket for the access of such information. The content of the internet was (and is) protected so as to allow the internet users to have choice on the type of information they could access. Due to the less pervasiveness of the internet as compared to radio and television broadcasting, regulations needed not to be set. The responsibility of restricting access of indecent information is bestowed upon parents towards their children and choice upon the adults.
Questions arise concerning the FCC’s regulations. Why are they to be set? Who has the authority to set them? These queries and many more are puzzles whose solutions are still unknown for many, especially the internet users. The possibilities are there. Regulations can actually be set. The question is, will they ever be set? If so, then when? It is one of hardest issues to address owing to the many considerations that have to be put in thought before a clear and satisfactory response is established. With the prominence of the internet all around the world, the level of difficulty to restrict some content considered or viewed or judged as indecent is beyond imaginable limits.
First considering the staggering numbers of the internet users, controlling the great development over the decades will be a great deal of a task. Hacking abilities and tricks is just but one of the most feared developments that could pose the greatest threat to the setting of indecency regulations on the internet. Computer wizards have over the years sharpened their skills in their respective field. Even if the regulations are set, following them would be a dream never to come true and controlling the crimes associated with the breaking of these regulations would cost governments a large fraction of their budgets.
Innovation and creativity would be greatly affected. Setting restrictions on the content of the internet will undoubtedly reduce the innovation and creativity that is rapidly growing at the moment. Apart from that, getting control over all the data and information in the internet is just like carrying the moon on an elephant’s back. This is to acknowledge that the FCC is capable of handling the task of controlling content of the internet, but the task itself is beyond difficult, risky and costly.
According to Justin Wong, the government can control indecency over the internet, but it has not yet fully dealt with the indecency over cable and public television. Before diving into the internet, the government must first cover and control indecency being aired over the broadcasts before it handles the huge content of the internet. Moreover, he suggests that attacking the media and the internet is not the way of preventing indecent material from reaching the citizens. Parents should be wary of their children because they are more technically clever. Only guidance and correct upbringing could curb the indecency issue over the internet (Wong, 2008).
There has been great improvement in the entertainment industry. One such remarkable improvement is the complete streaming of entertainment over the internet. The greatest development in the entertainment industry is just yet to be seen happening soon. This is what broadband entertainment is working towards. Television and computer linked through an interface to create a broadband paradise is the latest upcoming next big thing (Kipp, 2004).
The advantages of this complete streaming, like every other thing, will come with both advantages and disadvantages. The advantages are however expected to be more than its contrary results. The timing of movies and programs could be at one’s own free will. This will increase production by self-employed persons. This means that one doesn’t have to wait for a specific time to watch his/her favorite program. One can choose when to go to the internet and have their entertainment. Apart from working people, students can avoid missing school sessions and classes for the sake of entertainment. With complete streaming, they can choose to have their entertainment during appropriate times.
Addiction is a feared consequence that will come as a result of complete entertainment streaming. Due to the free access to the internet, there are already millions of reported cases of internet addiction (Young, 2011). The development in the entertainment industry will increase the already existing number of addicts.
The most obvious disadvantage is the topic of discussion in this paper; indecency. In terms of entertainment, it is clear that not the entire content is decent. It is alarming that indecent information that cannot be aired over cable and public television will find its way to the targeted people especially students, through the internet, where at the moment, there are no restrictions. This must be stopped and prevented at all costs. The FCC will not have any control if a told the entertainment industry will succeed in its complete streaming of content. The control (if any) that the FCC will have over the entertainment in the internet will be very small and almost negligible. All efforts must be directed to scrutinize the entertainment content and information before it gets into the internet.
Wong, J. (2008). Should the Internet face the same indecency standards as broadcasters. http://www.wongkeenhing.com/2008/05/07/should-the-internet-face-the-same-indecency-standards-as-broadcasters/
Federal Communications Commission. http://www.fcc.gov/guides/obscenity-indecency-and-profanity
Federal Communicatons Commission. http://www.fcc.gov/openinternet
Monserud, A. (2013). Streaming Media Shakes Up Entertainment Industry. The Pioneer. World press. http://whitmanpioneer.com/opinion/2013/09/26/streaming-media-shakes-up-entertainment/
Young, K. S. (2011). Internet addiction: A handbook and guide to evaluation and treatment. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley.
Goodale, J. C., & Frieden, R. (2008). All about cable and broadband. New York: Law Journal Press.
Kipp, S. (2004). Broadband entertainment: Digital audio, video and gaming in your home. Westminster, Colo: Broadband Entertainment.
Cohen, E. S. (2007). Broadband Internet: Access, regulation, and policy. New York: Nova Science Publishers