Net neutrality win: US FCC reclassifies broadband as a public utility, bans internet "fast lanes"
The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today voted 3-2 to uphold the principles of network neutrality – that is, to force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to treat all web traffic as equal. This prevents ISPs from being able to throttle or block users' connections to certain websites, or to offer "Internet fast lanes" whereby large websites could pay for their content to be delivered at a higher speed. Open Internet advocates see this as a huge step to protect the internet's current status as a free and open platform that offers equal opportunities to small and large content providers.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler announced today that the commission had voted 3-2 to reclassify home and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service, allowing the FCC to regulate broadband internet in the same way other "common carriers" such as fixed and mobile phone connections are regulated.
"Today the FCC took important steps to ensure that the US has a world leading broadband program that is fast, fair and open," said Wheeler, "The open internet order puts in place bright line rules that ban blocking, ban throttling and ban paid prioritization fast lanes. For the first time, open internet rules will be fully applicable to mobile. Consumers now know that content online will not, can not, be blocked, or their service throttled ... I have spent a lot of time in public policy. Today is the proudest day of my public policy life."
Net neutrality advocates celebrated the win, SaveTheInternet.com calling it "the biggest victory for the public interest in the agency's history." This group and many others like it were fighting against the possibility of ISPs being able to offer restricted or throttled versions of the internet to their customers, in which some sites would enjoy full-speed data transmission and others would load slower or be blocked altogether. ISPs would then be able to charge sites for the privilege of "fast lane" access, leading to a situation where smaller sites would find it much harder to compete with larger, more wealthy content providers.
ISP Verizon strongly opposed the ruling, delivering a news release in morse code, dated 1934, to protest the imposition of "rules on broadband Internet services that were written in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph."
The release went on to decry the decision as "an excuse to adopt 300-plus pages of broad and open-ended regulatory arcana that will have unintended consequences for consumers and various parts of the internet ecosystem for years to come."
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Three cheers for the little guys!
Ever heard of "regulatory capture"? The giant corporations use the government to stifle the competition. Such a "victory" as to make Gen. Custer faint.
Our only hope is that the internet is too big, world wide, and too agile to be dominated by a stodgy bureaucracy.
Second to address the morality issue: Most people have a hard time conceptualizing digital stuff because it is so far from their experience. I found an example that puts this into more understandable terms.
Your ISP is a carrier of data in exactly the same way UPS and Fed-EX are carriers of packages. So lets relate what your ISP is doing to data to packages.
Imagine you order an item from Amazon and you pay UPS shipping to deliver your package. Now UPS looks at it's traffic and sees that Amazon packages are making up more than 20% of their deliveries so they then go to Amazon and tell them to pay again to deliver you packages because their business has to expand to accommodate their deliveries. So now you AND your product provider are both paying for delivery of the same product. Amazon tells UPS "No that is predatory business and double billing for the same service." So UPS starts leaving Amazon packages in the warehouse for three days before processing them to punish Amazon for not paying the "protection" money. Then when Amazon refused a second time they start delaying the shipments for a week. This repeats until Amazon is effectively blackmailed into paying twice for a single service.
This is exactly what happened between Comcast and Netflix. Effectively Comcast discovered it would have to build out more capacity, like UPS adding more planes, and rather than consider it part of the cost of business extorted the money from Netflix and others.
I have absolutely no sympathy for any of Comcast's arguments that it was eating into their revenue as Comcast posted a 96% profit in 2013 and 2014 so they are not hurting in the profitability category.