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Broadband Policy: FCC Issues Net Neutrality Rules

Oct 15

Written by: Grants Office, LLC
Saturday, October 15, 2011  RssIcon

By Christopher Haight
October 2011

Last year in December, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed new regulations regarding the concept of Net Neutrality. Those rules, set to go into effect this November, require internet service providers to treat all content equally with respect to download speeds, increase their own disclosure and transparency related to network management and reliability, and prohibit providers from blocking any legal content.

Net neutrality has long been a long-standing source of controversy among federal regulators, content creators, and service providers. On the most basic level, proponents posit that the absence of such regulations would empower providers with the unfettered ability to create tiered access to content - making it comparably easier to access to a simple personal blog than a data-intensive website like Netflix, for example. They contend that this power would threaten innovation as newer companies could find it harder to gain a web presence. Notable supporters for various net neutrality policies include some of the most-visited websites, including Yahoo!, EBay, Amazon, and Google.

Even supporters remain divided, however. Google has supported a more limited net neutrality, one in which similar websites and applications must be treated the same but that would still allow for differentiation between types of websites. Under this situation, a provider would be able to differentiate pricing and download speeds between a video-streaming website and a personal blog, but could not give preferential treatment to one video-streaming website over another video-streaming site.

In contrast, opponents claim net neutrality regulations are an unnecessary infringement by the federal government into private markets. They contend regulations preventing the prioritization of data sources across networks may stifle the expansion of broadband services by reducing the ability of providers to recoup their investments. Without the incentive, they also argue innovation may be impacted. Leading the way, Verizon Wireless sued to halt implementation of the rules soon after they were published in the Federal Register in late September.

Providers, too, have divergent viewpoints. The new regulations differ between fixed and mobile broadband providers, giving the latter somewhat more leniency in discriminating against applications that could compete with their primary services. Senator Al Franken (D-MN) highlighted this disparity in his opposition over the lighter treatment of mobile broadband providers, saying consumers could be inhibited from accessing their preferred applications on their cell phones, like Google Maps, if Verizon could favor its own Navigator application instead.

The FCC's new net neutrality rules are likely more a first step than a final say. With Verizon having officially filed its lawsuit challenging the FCC's authority and more suits possibly on their way, the ultimate decision is likely to be one decreed by a court room rather than a regulatory body.

Tags: broadband , BTOP , FCC , NTIA
Categories: Broadband
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