Currently, there is a huge debate happening regarding the internet and how people obtain access to its content. Sadly, not many people really understand the nuances and implications of the net neutrality regulations FCC chairman, Jeff Wheeler, is attempting to put in place.
Part of the problem with the suggested regulations is that the terms are used in a sort of double-speak that says one thing and means another. The current concept of net neutrality that has been in place since the beginning of the internet’s existence is the idea that the internet provides a level playing field where consumers can make their own decisions regarding which apps and services they wish to use. Ironically, this definition was provided on the FCC’s own website, http://www.fcc.gov/guides/open-internet.
What is the FCC really saying?
That essentially means that we the people, the consumers, are free to make choices regarding where we get our information and which companies we wish to do business with over the internet. However, the regulation that the FCC wants to implement is contradictory to that freedom we currently enjoy should they be enacted due to inherent costs of implementing such regulations.
The FCC suggests 3 rules to facilitate an open internet:
- Transparency: ISPs must disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information that governs their network.
- No Blocking: No legal content may be blocked
- No unreasonable discrimination: ISPs must not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm internet; including favoring traffic from an affiliated entity.
May 12, 2014, Wheeler submitted a revision to the net neutrality regulations by adding a ban to “fast lanes” for companies willing to pay for upgrades to higher speeds. This revision is essentially intended to prevent ISPs from allowing prioritization for certain content and streaming among their subsidiaries.
What do these suggested rules mean to end-users?
These rules, on their face, appear to be a good thing for consumers. However, there are strong arguments against such rules. UC Berkeley argues the following points at http://www.ocf.berkeley.edu/~raylin :
- Telecommunication claim that these rules will cause costly changes to the infrastructure of the internet, which will ultimately be passed on to consumers.
- These costs will likely incur via “tiering”, which means that companies are likely to create upgrades that networks can pay for faster speeds (Wheeler’s “fast lanes”). As a result those companies that can afford faster speeds will gain favor, while those who either opt out or cannot afford such fees will have slower access for its users, and possibly suffer degraded quality reception for end-users. This is bad for smaller businesses, which is ultimately unfair to end-users and consumers in a free market.
- Those fees companies pay for faster speed will ultimately come out in higher fees for consumers creating an elite among users who can afford those fees, which ultimately discriminates against those who cannot afford those fees.
Effectively speaking, the Networks will act as “gatekeepers” between content providers and end-users, charging a fee for passage or access to information that is currently already available to anyone who wishes to see it without paying such exorbitant fees.
What does the double speak mean?
The double speak lay in the disingenuous way the FCC is using the term “net neutrality.” To their thinking they are attempting to prevent favoritism among networks and content providers and “ensure that no one– not the government nor companies that provide broadband service– can restrict innovation on the internet.”
In reality, these so-called net neutrality regulations suggested by the FCC runs counter to the actual meaning of open internet.