Big victory for NetNeutrality campaigners in USA in Feb 2015

Published: Sat, 07 Feb 2015 by Rad

Big victory for NetNeutrality campaigners in USA in Feb 2015.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler wants to reclassify Internet service providers as utility providers under the FCC's Title II authority. The move aims to preserve the principles of net neutrality in law, barring ISPs from blocking, throttling, or prioritizing traffic.

"I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply for the first time ever those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of Internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone's permission."

Tom Wheelers, Federal Communications Commission Chairman

What is net neutrality

Net neutrality is a network design paradigm that argues for broadband network providers to be completely detached from what information is sent over their networks.

In essence, it argues that no bit of information should be prioritized over another.

This long-held principle that all traffic on the network should be treated the same goes back to the very dawning of the web and for many enshrines the whole ethos of an open Internet, free from corporate control.

Expecting the ISPs to fight

We can expect the ISPs to fight tooth-and-nail to derail the FCC's effort — expect particularly vociferous objections from the likes of Comcast and Time Warner.

They'll claim that this will stifle competition (when the two don't compete at all) and investment (when they've been investing in upgrading their networks for decades without using any of the potentially-violating tactics they seek to employ). AT&T and Verizon claim that if the FCC increases regulation of Internet service to enforce net neutrality then they'd have reason to slow down investing in new upgrades. T-Mobile CEO John Legere previously tweeted that Title II qualifies as "heavy" regulation.

However Sprint is saying something different - it doesn't think the application of Title II classification under the Communications act (treating Internet like a utility, like phone service) will cause any problems.

Wifi and Mobile affected as well

In a surprise twist, the FCC even plans to apply these rules to mobile network operators. Previously the FCC had taken a more hands-off approach to cellular networks, but it appears they're poised to enforce net neutrality principles onto wireless carriers that have played fast-and-loose with the idea. T-Mobile CEO John Legere previously tweeted that Title II qualifies as "heavy" regulation.

Five attempts to pass bills in Congress failed

Five attempts to pass bills in Congress containing some net neutrality provisions have been made and failed. Each of them sought to prohibit Internet service providers from using various variable pricing models based upon the user's Quality of Service level.

Described as tiered service in the industry and as price discrimination by some economists, typical provisions in the bill state "[Broadband service providers may] only prioritize…based on the type of content, applications, or services and the level of service purchased by the user, without charge for such prioritization".

Other provisions common to the net neutrality discussion were included in the proposed legislative works.

However, at present (2014) Slovenia and the Netherlands are the only members of the 28-nation bloc to enshrine the principle in law

Situation in Europe

The European Parliament has voted to restrict Internet service providers' (ISPs) ability to charge data-hungry services for faster network access.

It would also prohibit mobile networks and broadband providers from blocking services - such as WhatApp messages or Google Drive storage - that compete with their own offerings.

Some warn that cost will be paid by consumers, as big companies providing content need not worry about their own charges anymore. However, with telecom and cable companies needing to cover the cost of infrastructure upgrades to cope with increasing data demands, market watchers warned that consumers should expect bigger bills.

Freedoms you would loose without net neutrality

Unlike public utilities, your Internet service provider (ISP) can abuse its power to influence which Internet businesses win and lose by slowing down or even blocking sites and services. ISP is able to deliver some sites and services more quickly and reliably than others for any reason. Whim. Envy. Ignorance. Competition. Vengeance. Whatever. Or, no reason at all.

What could you lose if ISPs are allowed to control what you view and how fast you view it? eg:

  • freedom of the press
  • free and fair elections
  • freedom of association
  • freedom to start a business
  • Freedom of choice

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