What about Net Neutrality?
The telecom industry on Thursday slammed the The Federal Communications Commission’s adoption of sweeping new Internet regulations, warning that the rules are a “radical step” that spells bad news for consumers and the economy.
Following a contentious meeting, the commission voted 3-2 to adopt its so-called net neutrality plan. The new regulations, which aim to bar service providers from creating paid Internet “fast lanes,” were sought by President Obama. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the plan would ensure an “open, unfettered network.”
However, major telecom industry players were scathing in their reaction to the vote, which looks set to be challenged in the courts.
“FCC’s ‘Throwback Thursday’ Move Imposes 1930s Rules on the Internet,” wrote Verizon, in a blog post. To illustrate its point, the company wrote its statement in Morse code, but added a link to a translated version for “readers in the 21st century.”
“By ignoring the fundamental differences in wireless networks and disregarding the intense competition throughout the mobile ecosystem, the FCC abandoned a long-standing policy framework responsible for fostering America’s world-leading wireless industry.”
“The agency’s action runs counter to an express Congressional directive prohibiting the agency from treating mobile broadband like a utility service, making today’s decision not only unwise, but unlawful,” it said. “The economic and legal uncertainty that will inevitably follow from the FCC’s unilateral action underscores the importance of, and urgent need for, bipartisan Congressional action that can end the net neutrality debate and allow our country’s mobile ecosystem to focus on what it does best – innovating, investing and empowering Americans’ mobile connected lives.”
The new rules would put the Internet in the same regulatory camp as the telephone by classifying it like a public utility.
Net neutrality is the idea that websites or videos load at about the same speed. That means you won’t be more inclined to watch a particular show on Amazon Prime instead of on Netflix because Amazon has struck a deal with your service provider to load its data faster.
For years, providers mostly agreed not to pick winners and losers among Web traffic because they didn’t want to encourage regulators to step in and because they said consumers demanded it. But that started to change around 2005, when YouTube came online and Netflix became increasingly popular. On-demand video began hogging bandwidth, and evidence surfaced that some providers were manipulating traffic without telling consumers.
By 2010, the FCC enacted open Internet rules, but the agency’s legal approach was eventually struck down in the courts. The vote Thursday was intended by Wheeler to erase any legal ambiguity by no longer classifying the Internet as an “information service” but a “telecommunications service” subject Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.
That would dramatically expand regulators’ power over the industry and hold broadband providers to the higher standard of operating in the public interest.
“We are confident that Title II regulation will be rejected as Congress, the courts and consumers fully understand how it will hold back investment, innovation and growth,” the TIA added. “While we support the coming legal challenges, our plan is to work with Congress to find a reasonable, balanced approach to an open Internet.”