This article caught my eye! Don't know what to think of it, off hand. The idea that one can connect to the internet just by plugging the computer in the electrical wall socket seems good. . . provided that it doesn't fry the computer (or hurt the computer's users!
I just wish that there was more public debate on such issues. Wish there was more public debate on a whole lot of issues and decisions that are forced down our throats. . . (But that's another topic for another thread for another time.)
Anyhow, here's the article. . .
Click Here for the Aricle
F.C.C. Begins Rewriting Rules on Delivery of the Internet
By STEPHEN LABATON
Published: February 12, 2004
WASHINGTON, Feb. 12-The Federal Communications Commission began writing new rules today that officials and industry experts said would profoundly alter both the way the Internet is delivered and used in homes and businesses.
In one set of proceedings, the commission began writing regulations to enable computer users to gain access to the Internet through electric power lines. Consumers will be able to plug their modems directly into the wall sockets just as they do with any garden variety appliance. Officials said the new rules, which are to be completed in the coming months, would enable utilities to offer an alternative to the cable and phone companies and provide an enormous possible benefit to rural communities that are served by the power grid but not by broadband providers.
In a second set of proceedings, commissioners began considering what rules ought to apply to companies offering Internet space and software to enable computer users to send and receive telephone calls.
A majority of the commissioners suggested that the new phone services should have significantly fewer regulatory burdens than traditional phone carriers. The agency also voted 4-to-1 to approve the application of a small Internet company, Pulver.com, asking that its service of providing computer-to-computer phone service not make it subject to the same regulations and access charges as the phone carriers.
Industry experts say that neither the phone service nor the broadband delivery systems offered by electric companies will take any sizable market share for at least the next two years. But in moving forward with the new regulations, they said the agency was reducing regulatory uncertainty and encouraging major companies and investors to make investments in the new technologies to enable them to move to market more quickly.
The F.C.C. chairman, Michael K. Powell, and his two Republican colleagues on the commission said the agency's decisions on the two sets of rules and the Pulver application would ultimately transform the telecommunications industry and the Internet.
"This represents a commitment of the commission of bringing tomorrow's technology today," Mr. Powell said. He added that the rules governing the new phone services were intended to make them as ubiquitous as e-mail, and at possibly a significantly lower cost than traditional phones, since the services would have lower regulatory costs.
A Republican commissioner, Kathleen Q. Abernathy, said that the agency and industry "stands at the threshold of a profound transformation of the telecommunications marketplace" as more companies-including such giants as AT&T and Verizon-move from circuit-switching phone technology to Internet-based technology.
But one Democratic commissioner, Michael J. Copps, raised objections to the Pulver petition and questioned the underlying themes of deregulation in the two rulemaking proceedings. He said that they had set the agency on a course that could effectively rewrite the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and make it easier for the incumbent phone companies to escape necessary regulation.
Mr. Copps also criticized the majority of the commission for rejecting a request by law enforcement agencies that the F.C.C. first work out the legal and technical problems in monitoring phone calls over the Internet before granting Pulver's application or considering new rules for the Internet-based phone services.
"I believe it is reckless to proceed, and I cannot support this decision at this time," he said of the Pulver application. "The majority apparently prefers to act now and fix law enforcement issues later-along with universal service, public safety, disability access and a host of other policies we are only beginning to address."
Mr. Powell replied pointedly to Mr. Copps's criticism that the agency was rewriting the Telecommunications Act by offering a new deregulatory climate that the old phone companies might seek to take advantage of.
"We can talk about rewriting the Telecommunications Act," he said. "But the Telecommunications Act is nine years old and it is being rewritten by technology."