The FCC has narrowly approved, by a 3-2 vote, a new policy on net neutrality that has been met with a lot of criticism and has already drawn fire from some in the telecommunications industry, and even supporters of the principle were not completely happy with the Commission’s new rules.
Net neutrality is the concept that any traffic on the Internet gets treated the same way and is transmitted on a first-come, first-serve basis. The idea is to prevent companies from favoring one providers’ content over another.
Internet service providers (ISPs), such as AT&T or Verizon (News – Alert), will be prevented from blocking access to lawful websites and content, according to media reports. The plan also affects wired broadband providers.
To the right-wing free market corporatists, the mere fact that a government agency could presume to have a say in how a private service like Internet access is sold is heresy. To the left-wing free-Web purists, the fact that these rules are not laws, have loopholes you could drive a truck through, and still allow ISPs to throttle Internet access, is a high crime.
U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R, Ill.) called the FCC’s plan “a solution in search of a problem.” Shimkus said in a statement that “The Internet is not broken, and the FCC has no legal authority to ‘fix’ it without a directive from Congress.”
“As a sector of the economy free from government interference, the Internet has expanded well beyond anyone’s imagination,” he added. “For average Internet users, this move means the slower roll out of new wired and wireless technologies as well as the slower deployment of high speed networks in underserved parts of the country. … This move discourages capital investment, stifles job creation, and could raise the cost of Internet access.”
However, many Democratic leaders were sympathetic to the proposal. In a statement released by President Barack Obama, he said the FCC’s decision “will help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice, and defending free speech” and he described it as “an important component of our overall strategy to advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.”
He also noted that “parties on all sides of this issue – from consumer groups to technology companies to broadband providers – came together to make their voices heard.”
Here are the new rules, cut and pasted right from the FCC press release:
Rule 1: Transparency
A person engaged in the provision of broadband Internet access service shall publicly disclose accurate information regarding the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of such services and for content, application, service, and device providers to develop, market, and maintain Internet offerings.
Rule 2: No Blocking
A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices, subject to reasonable network management.
A person engaged in the provision of mobile broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not block consumers from accessing lawful websites, subject to reasonable network management; nor shall such person block applications that compete with the provider’s voice or video telephony services, subject to reasonable network
Rule 3: No Unreasonable Discrimination
A person engaged in the provision of fixed broadband Internet access service, insofar as such person is so engaged, shall not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic over a consumer’s broadband Internet access service. Reasonable network management shall not constitute unreasonable discrimination.