Less than neutral
AsÂ foreshadowedÂ by the JanuaryÂ Verizon v FCC case, net neutrality looks as though itâs officially dead. For the third time, the Federal Communications Commission is attempting to regulate the speed of the internet. This time, while it proposes preventing internet service providers from blocking internet content, it is likely to allow the creation of âfast lanesâ â where big corporations like Netflix or YouTube can pay for their video to be streamed faster than content from other companies. Â The commission will vote on the measure at itsÂ May 15 meeting.
On the official FCC blog, chairmanÂ Tom Wheeler, who was aÂ lobbyistÂ for the cable industry before being appointed to the FCC, tries to calm the concerns about the new regulation, saying that behavior âlimiting the openness of the internet will not be permittedâ. His post focuses on the idea that, within the parameters of the Verizon case, the FCC is allowed to stop âharmful conductâ if it isnât âcommercially reasonableâ. In other words, âinternet providers would be required to offer a baseline level of serviceâ, writesÂ Amy Schatz. Above that base level of service, allowing companies to pay to deliver certain content faster to consumers seems to be okay.
Open internet advocates object to the FCC considering any kind of non-equal treatment web content. âIf you’re allowing âfast lanesâ why regulate at all?â asksÂ Timothy Lee. Ars Technica demonstrates the point byÂ quotingÂ none other than the FCC, circa 2010: âIf permitted to deny access, or charge edge providers [like Netflix] for prioritized access to end users [you], broadband providers may have incentives to allow congestion rather than invest in expanding network capacityâ. On the other side,Â James GattusoÂ calls net neutrality âa dangerously bad ideaâ, suggesting that consumers are hurt by excessive FCC regulations.
The net neutrality issue goes back to the fact that ISPs historically haven’t been classified by the FCC as âcommon carriersâ, like phone companies are. Because they arenât treated like telecom companies, they arenât subject to the regulations requiring that they treat all content equally. After the Verizon case, many advocates â including former FCC commissionerÂ Michael CoppsÂ â had hoped the FCC would take steps to reclassify ISPs as common carriers.
Gautham NageshÂ writes that âthis latest plan is likely to be viewed as an effort to find a middle ground, as the FCC has been caught between its promise to keep the internet open and broadband providers’ desire to explore new business modelsâ.Â Stacey HigginbothamÂ succinctly sums it up: âThe FCC doesnât want to destroy net neutrality, but itâs going to anywayâ. âÂ Shane Ferro
On to todayâs links:
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