The lights are on
The Federal Communications Commission has voted in favor of moving ahead with a new net neutrality plan. The proposal would create a two-tiered structure that disallows throttling, but creates a “fast lane” for content providers willing to pay for the privilege.
The difference between throttling and a two-lane approach is nuanced. In the former setting, providers could discriminate and slow down traffic from providers like Netflix, Sony, or Microsoft. In the latter, it can simply speed up content delivery from some sources. It is not clear yet if there would be provisions in place that would keep broadband providers from lowering the speed of the standard tier for all users.
The only votes against the plan were commission members who feel the proposal is too far-reaching. It was not opposed by anyone on “open internet” grounds. Those that objected voiced a preference for Congress to determine these rules. The new rules are available for public comment right now, and a four month window is being provided during which the public can provide feedback.
Net neutrality as it existed prior to the courts striking it down in January covered what is known as “the last mile.” This term refers to the relationship between an end-user and his or her broadband provider. The deals that currently exist between Netflix and Comcast and Verizon do not violate the letter of the law, though opponents argue it is in conflict with the intent. The concern is that the Netflix deals and the new rules that would codify them in the rules create a system of haves and have-nots.
The FCC is in a tricky position. Its previous attempts to enforce net neutrality have been struck down. The commission has also failed to have broadband classified as a utility. Additionally, Congress has put the onus on the commission to create the operating rules, but has tied its hands and prevented the FCC from creating a unified set of rules that cover all situations.
You can read the entire proposal here. If you have an opinion on net neutrality, you can make your voice heard by contacting the Federal Communications Commission. Direct your emails to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler at Tom.Wheeler@FCC.gov.
For more on this issue and why it matters to you, check out our previous coverage and analysis of the potential impact on gaming.
[Source: New York Times, Federal Trade Commission]
Our TakeUnless Congress acts to reclassify broadband delivery as a utility, it seems unlikely that the FCC will be able to pass rules that protect an open internet. That’s a significant problem for the body that is charged with regulating interstate communications. The organization that is supposed to protect the public’s interest is unable to do so. Congress has tied the commission’s hands, and even appointed members seem uninterested in doing the job in front of them. If this matters to you, take action. Call your representatives and contact chairman Tom Wheeler.