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FCC looks to preserve open Internet

The Federal Communication Commission is looking to create new rules to regulate the Internet and preserve net neutrality.

Many people feel that one of the most valuable assets of the Internet is the equal and open access that people around the country can experience. While some websites may lie behind pay walls and others require users to sign up, Internet providers for a long time did not have much say as to how much bandwidth websites were allowed to have.

The end of net neutrality?
The FCC is responsible for regulating Internet policies and the control that ISPs have over customer bandwidth. One of the major provisions that the FCC had in place for a long time was the prohibition of providers giving priority to certain websites. The concern about this provision is that certain websites could see limited access because of corporate priorities.

For instance, if one ISP owned a video streaming service like Netflix, it may be more prone to give its own service better bandwidth than competitors owned in by another company. Those who were against the policy said that the websites that need better bandwidth would be able to provide more reliable service, while others argued that the FCC control stifled business innovation.

Verizon was one ISP that felt the FCC had too much control over the Internet and took the government body to court as a result, saying that this particular policy was unconstitutional. Recently, the Supreme Court ruled that this was the case, which sent many proponents of a free and open Internet into a frenzy. Headlines spelling the end of net neutrality covered many news outlets, while opinion pieces offered their take on how the Internet will look following the ruling.

Finding a new solution
Though the Supreme Court ruling was in favor of Verizon rather than the FCC, this does not mean the government body will not be doing its best to preserve the ideals that its provision was meant to maintain. Forbes Magazine reported that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is in the process of developing a plan that will rewrite the rule to maintain net neutrality.

The news source noted that he has a number of different options in his formation of a new plan. For instance, the FCC could appeal the ruling outrightly or reclassify ISPs as common carriers, which means they would again be subject to the rules.

Democratic senators are also looking to change the ruling as well. One way they hope to do so is by amending the Telecommunications Act. While this could be an effective solution in the long term, Wheeler feels that it is not practical in the short term as this amendment process can take quite a while.

Support for net neutrality
A number of groups have come out in support of Wheeler making sure that he maintains net neutrality, according to Media Post. For instance, one group known as Free press wrote an open letter urging him to pursue the reclassification route in order to preserve net neutrality.

"If the Commission fails to restore common carriage to our nation's central communications network, we are ensuring that future generations of Americans will not be able to send the information of their choosing, between points of their choosing, without undue discrimination," the group wrote according to the news source.

If this plan were to come to fruition, ISPs would be treated as other telecommunication services rather an information service. This classification brings up an interesting question when it comes to the role of the Internet in the U.S. Should it be treated as a network that helps people communicate or one that distributes information?

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