The FCC (Federal Communications Commission) is ridin’ solo. The U.S. Gov’t agency plans to regulate the Internet to ensure it remains a fair and neutral place for everyone. Under the new regulations, internet service providers (ISPs) would not be allowed to block Websites that offer competing services to their own nor speed up or slow down certain types or sources of Internet traffic–in other words, it plans to keep the net neutral. The measure has not yet passed, but a majority of the FCC’s five-member panel plans to vote for it today.
Net neutrality has become a big issue as ISPs like Comcast have begun dipping their feet in the content business, offering streaming services and on-demand products. Comcast has admitted to slowing down P2P and BitTorrent filesharing traffic and is currently tussling with Level 3, a company that provides video bandwidth for content rival Netflix. Despite Google’s best efforts, the deal will also extend to wireless carriers like Verizon as well, who would no longer be able to prevent services like Skype or Vonage from using their data networks for voice calls.
Not without flaws
Still, the deal is not perfect. Net neutrality purists will not like the fact that the rules are more lenient for wireless carriers. They cannot block Websites, but they can still block applications that compete directly with products they sell (Skype), reports the NY Times. And ISPs may not be able to slow traffic down, but they can speed up those who pay a premium price. (Does the FCC not realize that if ISPs are able to speed certain traffic up, they must be keeping everyone else’s speed down to some degree? If we have any readers who are network experts, please correct me if I’m wrong.)
Some, like Democratic Senator Al Franken don’t believe the wireless rules are strong enough. “Maybe you like Google Maps. Well, tough,” Mr. Franken said on Saturday on the Senate floor. “If the F.C.C. passes this weak rule, Verizon will be able to cut off access to the Google Maps app on your phone and force you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it is not as good. And even if they charge money, when Google Maps is free. If corporations are allowed to prioritize content on the Internet, or they are allowed to block applications you access on your iPhone, there is nothing to prevent those same corporations from censoring political speech.”
Those who don’t like the new rules will undoubtedly challenge it in court. Earlier this year, a court ruling put into doubt whether the FCC actually has the authority to regulate the Internet.