Net Neutrality Scores a Victory for Now

Christopher Sewerd Policy

After months of uncertainty Net Neutrality in the United States has finally been safeguarded. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) have approved rules that protect the freedom of the internet and allow information to pass without hindrance.

What is Net Neutrality even?

Net Neutrality has been a buzz word for the past 12 months and unless you’ve been living in a cave off the grid you will have been hard pressed to have not at the very least heard of the phrase. Net Neutrality is the ideal that all information should pass through networks with the same level of priority.

Big corporations made up mainly of ISPs in the US had been pushing for a two tier internet that would allow them to charge large companies for the privilege of delivering internet services faster than the rest of the average traffic. In essence companies such as Netflix would be required to pay large sums to deliver movies faster to the consumer. This would in effect stifle competition from smaller start-ups and change the way the internet has functioned for over two decades.

FCC proposal for the changes

A draft order was recently proposed by FFC chairman Tom Wheeler and on Thursday 26th February these proposals were passed protecting Net Neutrality. While the proposal passed it wasn’t without a close call with only 3 commissioners voting in favour and 2 against.

Classification of the type of service the internet is was at the heart of the debate and by passing the proposals set forth by Tom Wheeler the FCC have basically ensured that their ability to protect Net Neutrality and have a greater say on it moving forward are retained.

Key areas of the new rules include :-

  • Rules now applicable to both fixed and mobile broadband
  • No Blocking of legal content or services
  • No Throttling of traffic to degrade the service
  • No Paid Prioritization to allow fast lanes for certain traffic
  • FFC will have the ability to rule on a case by case basis in the future to allow for changes in technology and on the internet
  • Greater Transparency from internet providers in relation to promotional rates, fees, surcharges and data caps.

As part of the new regulations broadband itself is being reclassified as a telecommunications service allowing the FCC greater control.

The future of Net Neutrality

While the majority of internet users were elated with the result, ISPs themselves are less than pleased with the ruling and have already vowed to take the FCC to court to resolve the issue. So although the ruling for the time being has protected the rights to an open internet and a freedom of traffic, history can possibly repeat itself such as the case where Verizon successfully convinced a judge to overrule the FCC’s old Net Neutrality rules back in 2011.

Scott Belcher, chief executive of the Telecommunications Industry Association claims that the FCC have overreacted and that for ISPs to innovate and continue to invest they need to know they can get a financial return. Although this on the surface is true, one has to question how ISPs have innovated and invested over the history of time without a two tiered internet and wonder if the associations linked to the ISPs are a little hurt that a possible revenue stream has been cut short.

While we certainly haven’t heard the end of the Net Neutrality debate for now the power of the people has now been felt with over 4 million recorded comments sent to the regulator and high profile supporters such as Barack Obama lending his weight to the debate just going to show that people power still has a place in dictating how the internet is run and with a vocal majority we can in many cases continue to steer the internet in the direction it has always been pointing.