So there’s a lot of talk out there about the FCC approving “Net Neutrality Rules”, and how it passed by a 3 to 2 vote. There are also a lot of quotes from people in these articles from Tom Wheeler, the commission chairman… saying stuff like this is “too important to let broadband providers be the ones making the rules.”
However, a lot of the articles fail to really explain what Net Neutrality is although they do like to say what it could mean…
The 2 additional rules added are below:
Under the draft proposed rules, subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service:
- would be required to treat lawful content, applications, and services in a nondiscriminatory manner; and
- would be required to disclose such information concerning network management and other practices as is reasonably required for users and content, application, and service providers to enjoy the protections specified in this rule making.
Net Neutrality is a term that was coined by Columbia University Media Law Professor Tim Wu in 2003, however the concept existed long before that. It means that “Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differently by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, or mode of communication. (taken from Wikipedia 2/26/2015)”
The FCC has had complaints in the past about ISPs using devices like “Packet Shapers” that is used to limit certain types of traffic that at the ISPs discretion. The ISPs traffic speed they promised their customers would then have a lower priority thus resulting in lower speeds. Even worse the customer could be limited or discourage to visit legitimate websites or use certain technologies prior to approving the “Net Neutrality” rules.
One example of a service that was commonly limited is called Peer2Peer (P2P) networks such as file sharing networks that people use to download movies, programs, songs, or whatever you can put in a file and share. While this technology can be used to break laws, it also has legitimate purposes like for when we want to download the latest version of a Linux operating systems via a torrent file. The other example would be when people are streaming movies, etc…. this normally takes up a lot of speed on networks, and thus lowering the speed of video streaming for their customers makes it so that the ISP doesn’t have to invest so much into it’s infrastructure.
The other side of the argument is that ISPs would actually limit this traffic because it could take up a lot of the speed that other people needed to use on the web. However, in the past some of these Internet service providers didn’t tell their customers about this limitation and therefore, it wasn’t disclosed to the customers.
The problem here before this was actually approved is that the ISPs themselves had the discretion to punish customers by providing slower download speeds to content and limiting content that their customers want to view without disclosing this to the ISPs customer base.
Overall, this should be a good thing, and is a huge step for all of us using Internet services as it helps to promote truth in advertisement. I just hope that ISPs don’t leverage these new rules to punish customers monetarily by increasing costs and blaming the cost increase on the newly approved rules. Hopefully, in the end, if that ever does happen fair competition will help to drive costs down if cost increases do occur. However, at least we know what we are paying for!