Will The FCC’s New Net Neutrality Rules Protect Consumers And Small Businesses?

    February 19, 2014
    Zach Walton
    Comments are off for this post.

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

  • Isahiah62

    “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.””

    so we are just supposed to trust this guy from the admin that continually lies to us and spies on us?? I am not comfortable with his WORD, we need this in writing, spelled out, before their position “evolves” into a different one

    • simonts

      Wheeler is certainly MUCH more trustworthy than the leaders of other agencies, e.g. the FDA, or FAA, etc. Those agencies are owned and operated by the lobbyists of the industries they are supposed to be regulating. It seems that the FTC is not that rotten yet.

      • Isahiah62

        you know the guy? you vouch for him? are there degrees of trust? IF XYand Z are totally untrustworthy I should be happy with just little untrustworthy? I do not get your comment and I don’t trust anyone with this type of ARBITRARY power.


        When one has been threatened with a great injustice, one accepts a smaller as a favor. -Jane Welsh Carlyle, letter writer (1801-1866)

        • simonts

          I hear you, but taking your general mistrust to its logical conclusion you are saying essentially that there should be no government regulatory agencies, or even no government. I.e. unregulated unfettered greed driven “fee market capitalism”. which, as we have seen from the ’80-s, leads to disaster. We need a government by the people for the people (including regulator agencies) whom we the people can trust.

          • Isahiah62

            no I am saying that what they want to do should be very specific and enumerated in writing- I am saying that NO GOVERNMENT agency should regulate CONTENT on the internet especially not overseeing content of information that is not pornographic or threatening bodily harm-

          • simonts

            Well, based on everything I known and read this guy has no intention to “regulate content” on the Internet. What they want to regulate/ensure is that every content is treated the same way, i.e. neutrally. This is everyone’s interest except of course in the interest of the network providers who want to charge more for certain content or slow some content down unless you are willing to pay for getting it faster.

          • Isahiah62

            They are already using censorship and lawfare to squash dissent—who determines what’s neutral??? Yes keep voting to give away your rights – I won’t


          • simonts

            Well you keep listening to extremist right wing lies and propaganda, like the piece you pointed to. Maybe if you cared about facts and truth you would think differently. As far as voting: do you think voting in GOP idiots like GW Bush would be better? Maybe you have heard about the Patriot act, his creation, which was the biggest giveaway of civil rights in our history.

          • Isahiah62

            LOL that’s what you got—–smears and ——> BUSH

            and you keep your BDS bye

          • simonts

            You just can’t handle fasts and the truth…no big surprise.

          • Pizzaman7

            Here we go again……Bush is long gone. Give it up and while you are at it grow up. The Patriot Act has been renewed three times by this administration and they came up with NDAA which is far worse in 2009 which Obumbo gladly signed. Speaking of extreme you sound like an extremist leftist.

            The government screws up everything it touches. They took three years to build a crappy insecure bilion dollar web site and it still sucks ! I would of been fired on the spot for something like this….no the morons who built this got the contract to fix it ! How about they fix it for free which is what happens in the private sector.

            Let the free market figure out net neutrality. I don’t trust this government. Just like we were supposed to keep our own healthcare plans or doctors. The Internet is working pretty well right now. We don’t need to have the government regulate everything including the color of our socks. If you are not getting fast enough speeds or unhappy with your service then switch to someone else.

  • $21525498

    The Web should remain a public utility, PERIOD! Anything less is unacceptable. Greedy ruthless corporations will ALWAYS exploit the public when given the opportunity.

    • Pizzaman7

      You don’t think the government is ruthless, greedy, or exploits the public ? I have a bridge to sell you !

      I’ll take my chances against a company instead of the government that might load up the courts with people who will side with them.

      The government can’t build a web site or run the post office without billions in tax bailouts….whey should not be trusted with something as great as the Internet.

  • Paul L Button

    With Comcast trying to buy out its main competitor, Time Warner, it should be evident that Comcast is, in fact, trying to obtain a 30% monopolistic control of what is presented on the web. This is dangerous. 30% control of anything should be viewed as a potential threat in whatever domain or field. Competitive advantage is always a good thing, but it should be gotten by customer service, client engagement, and fair and honest offerings that compel the potential client to choose one offering over another. For ISPs to be at the mercy of onerous, arbitrary, and self-serving content is both disingenuious and destructive. IMHO.

    • simonts

      Comcast is already in a monopolistic position in every market it operates. All cable companies are. This is natural, given the large capital investment it takes to lay the cable. However, because they are monopolies they should be tightly regulated in the public interest. If they do not like to be regulated they should go into another business.

  • http://www.peterotte.com/ Peter Otte

    It’s as much an ethical issues as it is one of legal strategy. The court process is long and unpredictable. The shortcut would be to rewrite the rules and then render the judge’s decision invalid. And by the way, it’s the NSA that has been involved in spying on U.S. civilians, not the FCC.

  • simonts

    I do not know whether we the people/consumers can trust the FCC or not, We will see. BUT, for sure Comcast has been slowing down the Internet access speed in our area significantly since the supreme court ruling. Hence, if they promised the FCC that they would not do it their are lying.