We haven’t heard a lot about net neutrality recently, but that may soon change. It seems that after a mere 10 months in the wings, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC (News - Alert)) is ready to make public its rules on net neutrality. The agency’s rules have finally been published in the Federal Register.
This recent ComputerWorld blog highlighted the three things these rules will do for consumers, including add transparency to how networks are managed by broadband solutions providers, both wired and wireless; prohibit wired broadband providers from blocking lawful applications, content, services and non-harmful devices; prevent wireless providers from blocking lawful applications or websites that compete with video or voice services; and block wired broadband providers from discriminating in the transmission of lawful network traffic.
The new broadband solutions rules are expected to take effect on November 20, yet not all in the industry believe they will be met with the necessary support. In fact, ComputerWorld believes both wired and wireless providers will challenge the rules in court, much the way MetroPCS and Verizon (News - Alert) challenged them in January. These cases were thrown out, but only because the rules had not yet been finalized.
The story just gets more interesting as the approval of the rules in December 2010 followed party lines: three Democrats voted yes, while two Republicans voted no. One of the Republicans has since taken a job at Comcast (News - Alert). It was this cable giant that helped to spur the FCC into action when it throttled BitTorrent traffic through on its network. The FCC attempted to penalize Comcast, but the agency had no leverage as the rules had yet to be published.
According to Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for the Consumers Union, the FCC rules aim to take the necessary steps to ensure the Internet continues to be an open marketplace. When Internet service is purchased, consumers expect they will have equal access to all the Web has to offer and shouldn’t hit walls due to industry tactics.
Even with the assumed benefits, there are still some who criticize the move. Matt Wood (News - Alert), policy director for the Free Press suggests the rules are riddled with loopholes. He argues they don’t do enough to stop the phone and cable companies from dividing the Internet into fast and slow lanes. They also fail to protect wireless users from discrimination that is actually taking place in the market.
Wood does acknowledge the rules might still do some good, but will they help to deliver the most value in your broadband solutions? It will be fun to watch this one play out.
Susan J. Campbell is a contributing editor for TMCnet and has also written for eastbiz.com. To read more of Susan’s articles, please visit her columnist page.
Edited by Stefanie Mosca