Does the FCC’s New Net Neutrality Plan Ignore Net Neutrality?

After an appeals court shot down the FCC’s latest attempt to create an Open Internet, aka Net Neutrality, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler promised to rework a new plan which would work within the parameters of the court’s ruling.  The appeals court agreed that the FCC had some regulatory authority over ISPs, but that the 2010 Open Internet rules imposed mandates that were not within their authority.  The court agreed with Verizon’s assertion that they could carry content they deemed fit and manage their networks accordingly.

Having decided to not appeal the decision, Wheeler’s options were limited. In February he announced that they would be proposing new rules that would focus on transparency and making sure ISPs did not act in a discriminatory manner, such as speeding up or slowing down speeds for certain content providers. In light of Netflix’s recent deal with Comcast, many fear the chance to have true net neutrality is already lost.

Late last month, news broke that the FCC had drafted a proposal that would soon be voted on and put out for public comment.  The details have not been published, but they have released the framework on which the rules will be based. The proposed rules would ensure transparency, no blocking of legal content and that ISPs do not act in a a commercially unreasonable manner.

The “no unreasonable discrimination” has raised the alarm of many. In particular, reports have surfaced that this will allow deals like the recent Netflix/Comcast one, a deal that even Netflix wishes they didn’t have to make. If allowed to continue, this would create fast and slow lanes of content delivery – creating the nightmare scenario that net neutrality advocates want to stop.

The uproar was so swift that Wheeler took to the official FCC blog to make several clarifications. He pointed out that these proposed rules were not a final decision and just a first step in the rule making process. He insists that what he is proposing is within the framework laid out in the appeals court ruling. It is best to work within that framework because, as he points out, “acting in a manner that ignores the Verizon court’s guidance, or opening an entirely new approach, invites delay that could tack on multiple more years before there are Open Internet rules in place.”

In other words, the proposed rules are the best shot at getting net neutrality now.

He further clarified what he deemed as “commercially unreasonable” behavior as “something that harms consumers; harms competition; provides exclusive, prioritized service to an affiliate; or something that curbs the free exercise of speech and civic engagement.”  His statement doesn’t address the claim that providers could pay to have more direct access to customers and points out that any sort of discriminatory behavior would not be allowed under the new rules. The idea of “fast lanes” is not the point. The purpose of the rules is to “ensure that everyone has access to an Internet that is sufficiently robust to enable  consumers to access the content, services and applications they demand, as well as an Internet that offers innovators and edge providers the ability to offer new products and services.”

The rules are essentially only dealing with the delivery to consumers. The Internet is a complicated network of interconnected parts that work to transmit data efficiently. Content providers use numerous content delivery networks (CDNs) to get their content to their audience as quickly as possible. ISPs (Internet Service Providers) control the so-called “last mile” of the network – the one that reaches millions of customers. Content providers have numerous choices of CDNs, who they pay to deliver their content to the part of the network controlled by a company like Verizon or AT&T, for example.

While the CDNs pay to access the ISP’s network (there are various types of arrangements within the industry), the content providers do not pay the ISPs directly. The deal between Comcast and Netflix is a rare example of a content provider paying an ISP to connect directly to that last mile. Netflix usually goes through CDNs, but is building its own delivery network to bypass them.

He did note, however, that interconnectivity is something the Commission would welcome comments on, including what is and is not working for all involved.

He also put ISPs on notice about testing what would be “commercially reasonable,” saying that all the FCC’s regulatory authority was on the table, including reclassification of ISPs to public utilities. They will deal with any attempt to block innovators and content providers with the “full panoply of our authority.”  In short, by following the court’s road map, they have a legal way to protect net neutrality and do so expeditiously.

The full details will be presented for public comment on May 15.

55 comments

Jim Ven
Jim Venabout a month ago

thanks for the article.

Janice Thompson
Janice Thompson1 years ago

If there is money to be had, net neutrality will go out the window.

GGmaSheila D.
GGmaSheila D.1 years ago

To make comments to the FCC, and let Tom Wheeler know how the People, who set up and paid for the internet in the first place, feel about his two lane system that allows the Mega Telecoms to charge for the fast lane and will close many small businesses and websites, that will also affect nonprofits' donations and petition sites, check out Dandelion's news at: http://www.care2.com/news/member/901507364?sort=submitted

The deadline has been extended to tomorrow, Friday 7-18-14. Please conact all of your friends and family to comment...even the newsletters you receive, as they very probably will be affected also...Please call or email them all. Thanks so much.

Karen H.
Karen H.2 years ago

Millions of people have signed petitions, but it seems corporations have more of a say in the U.S. than "we the people".

Deborah L.
Deborah L.2 years ago

Well my internet went from 30 to $36 a month, 20% increase. It is slower than before too. Too bad my income cannot keep up with real inflation, water rates up over 110% a month, property taxes up over 100%, car insurance-no accidents, tickets or claims, car sits in garage 99% of the time, up 74.89% increase a month and my income went up like .03% and I lost almost half the food stamps I get, for all the years I worked it is like a slap in the face.
The prices of the necessities that the real working people and retired and disabled need to survive are well past the point of being able to cut back. Students also rely on the internet, something never heard of when I was in school. Being disabled, the internet was the main source for me to see what is happening in the world, I can read my local news online, many of the articles are rarely found in physical print news. I can learn new things and see the world, something my physical limitations and $$ are out of reach. Seems the PTB just cannot stand for the people of this country, who when compared to many 3rd world countries who have cheaper and much faster internet than we do, want Americans to at least keep our heads above water and are still viable on the global market for jobs and our students, who seem to be falling further behind daily. Seems they want us so censored and ignorant of almost everything, it should make everyone wonder why.

Leanne B.
Leanne B.2 years ago

Thanks

Aud nordby
Aud nordby2 years ago

ty

Janis K.
Janis K.2 years ago

Thanks for sharing.

Danuta Watola
Danuta Watola2 years ago

Thank you for sharing.

Nils Anders Lunde
PlsNoMessage se2 years ago

ty