FCC creates new rules that many feel will eliminate Net Neutrality
The Federal Communication Commission recently proposed new rules that would allow companies to pay for expedited Internet service.
For a long time, it Net Neutrality was one of the foremost guiding principles on the Internet. This was the idea that Internet Service Providers could not show preference between companies when it came to Internet traffic. The justification behind this was that larger companies could not show preference to smaller ones, because if taken to an extreme, many felt that this could lead to the selective discrimination of certain websites.
The FCC was responsible for making sure that net neutrality was preserved on the web, but their power was challenged during a case that Verizon brought to court. They company argued that because the Internet was not treated as a public utility, the FCC did not have the authority to use this approach to regulating traffic. A federal appeals court sided with Verizon and forced the FCC to come up with a plan that would be able to accommodate the ruling.
The new FCC plan
The New York Times reported that the new plan would allow for major companies like Netflix or Google to pay for faster Internet lanes to provide content to online users. The FCC commissioner, Tom Wheeler, said that the rules would be able to maintain Net Neutrality while at the same time complying with the court ruling.
The news source likened the Internet to a commercial highway. The new rules would effectively create an "uncongested car pool lane on a busy freeway."
"There is no 'turnaround in policy,'" said Wheeler, according to the Times. "The same rules will apply to all Internet content. As with the original open Internet rules, and consistent with the court's decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted."
The rules would also require that ISPs disclose what companies are receiving the fast Internet service.
These rules could have a number of effects on the way that companies interact. For instance, Comcast, one of the largest ISPs in the country, owns NBCUniversal, a major content provider. On top of this, Comcast has sought to take over Time Warner Cable, another prominent broadband provider, which would give the company a vast amount of power in the cyberspace sphere. Further, such actions would allow it to show preference to certain companies, which many feel could mean that the Comcast can show preference to many of the enterprises it owns.
However, for those who do support the new rules feel that this will allow ISPs to provide better service to websites like Netflix that tend to have a higher bandwidth by nature of their service, as videos typically have a need for greater bandwidth than other sites.
What it means for Net Neutrality
While the FCC contended that this will maintain the principles of Net Neutrality, while at the same time being able to comply with the court ruling – but not everyone feels this way. The Times, noted that a number of consumer advocacy groups have come out against the rules for a number of reasons. One of the largest is that it would stifle innovation as new sites that are looking to start would be stifled by larger companies that can pay for preferred access.
Another argument comes from Dan Gillmor at the Guardian. He contends that once companies start paying more for service, so too will customers. He also warns that this would create an oligopoly. However, he believes there are solutions that will be able to preserve Net Neutrality in its original form, but that it will a major effort from tax payers around the country.
The ruling will certainly have an impact on the future of the Internet in the U.S. and around that world, but exactly how, is still up in the air.