Will The FCC’s New Net Neutrality Rules Protect Consumers And Small Businesses?By: Zach Walton - February 19, 2014
In January, the open Web took a major hit when a court sided with Verizon over the FCC’s net neutrality rules. The defeat meant that Verizon or any other ISP could throttle certain types of traffic in favor of others. While the FCC could appeal the ruling, the Commission is apparently not going that route.
Reuters is reporting that the FCC will not be appealing the Verizon case instead opting to rewrite the rules. In last month’s ruling, the court said the FCC had the authority to regulate broadband access. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler will reportedly be using this authority as a jumping point to bring back the non-discrimination rules found in the original net neutrality rules.
Do you think the FCC is right to not appeal? Should new rules be written? Let us know in the comments.
Wheeler issued a statement Wednesday detailing how he intends to rewrite these rules. In his statement, he says the court upholding the Commission’s authority to regulate broadband access will be used to accomplish three goals – enforce and enhance the transparency rule, fulfill the “no blocking” goal, and fulfill the goals of the non-discrimination rule. While the court had no problem with the transparency rule, it did smack down the latter two. Wheeler says he will work within the confines of the court’s ruling to ensure that ISPs can not block or discriminate against Internet traffic.
By looking to the FCC’s current authority, Wheeler could be trying to avoid a potential fight over an easier solution to the net neutrality problem – reclassifying ISPs as common carriers. The FCC only classifies phone service operators as such and has immense authority over them. The court ruled that anything other than common carriers are subject to far less authority and regulation. While the FCC certainly has the authority to reclassify ISPs as common carriers, it may want to avoid the fight that would inevitably ensue.
As you might expect, not everybody on the FCC is terribly fond of the idea. Commissioner Ajit Pai issued a statement as well saying that net neutrality rules are burdensome regulations that get in the way of process:
When Congress told us to encourage broadband deployment by removing barriers to infrastructure investment, it also established the policy of the United States to “preserve the vibrant and competitive free market that presently exists for the Internet . . . unfettered by Federal or State regulation.” Whatever the Commission does as it moves forward, it must take that statutory command to heart.
The Internet was free and open before the FCC adopted net neutrality rules. It remains
free and open today. Net neutrality has always been a solution in search of a problem.
What Pai doesn’t take into account is that net neutrality wasn’t much of a concern 10 years ago. As more and more services moved online, however, it became apparent that net neutrality would be a necessity moving forward. With nothing standing between an ISP speeding up its own services while throttling competitors, they aren’t going to support a free and open Web for long.
While such scenarios have yet to materialize, we got a preview of what it may be like earlier this month when it was revealed that Netflix’ performance on Verizon was degrading. Netflix claims that Verizon was not intentionally throttling its speeds, but the poor performance Verizon users have been experiencing would become the norm if net neutrality rules are not reinstated.
Not to mention, the proposed merger of Comcast and Time Warner Cable brings net neutrality concerns to the forefront. While Comcast has agreed to adhere to the FCC’s net neutrality rules for the next few years, nothing will stop them from throttling competitors like Netflix in favor of its own services once its agreement with the Commission expires.
The examples thus far have all focused on Netflix as its generally seen as the standard in video delivery innovation. Not only did it pioneer the idea of streaming television over the Internet, but it’s also producing quality original content like House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.
It’s hard to remember a time when Netflix was just a small startup, but there are hundreds, if not thousands, of potential startups and small businesses out there that could have the same kind of impact that Netflix has had. Without net neutrality rules to protect them, these small businesses would be at the mercy of the major Internet providers that would throttle their services unless they were willing to pay for the fast lane. Throttling innovation will lead to a stagnant market that can’t compete in an ever growing global economy.
Net neutrality is more than just a philosophy. It’s a means to protect the consumer and small business from an industry that sometimes seems a little too monopolistic for its own good. While some will call for the FCC to reclassify broadband providers thus subjecting them to more regulation, the FCC seems to be going for a balance that satisfies the need for net neutrality without introducing more regulation than needed.
Do you have faith in the FCC to protect consumers and small businesses with its new net neutrality rules? Or will be it one-sided in favor of Internet providers? Let us know in the comments.
Image via Cable Center/YouTube