FCC to Push Net Neutrality Rules

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The FCC plans to propose Net Neutrality rules on Monday that would prevent Internet service providers from blocking certain types of traffic. The new rules would let consumers access legal services such as streaming media and online chats without restrictions and would apply to traditional and mobile Internet services alike, according to The Wall Street Journal.

If approved, the FCC will have the authority to force Internet access providers like Comcast and AT&T to let subscribers use their connections without worrying about blocked services or bandwidth throttling depending on what type of content or service they access.

Approval would likely make many iPhone owners happy since they wouldn't have to deal with application restrictions like AT&T limiting the mobile Skype application to Wi-Fi networks.

Internet service providers think additional regulation in this case is a bad idea and that the industry is doing just fine without government involvement. Chris Guttman-McCabe, vice president of regulatory affairs for CTIA, the wireless industry's trade group, commented "We believe that this kind of regulation is unnecessary in the competitive wireless space as it would prevent carriers from managing their networks -- such as curtailing viruses and other harmful content -- to the benefit of their consumers."

The FCC and several Internet-based companies, including Google, disagree because they are concerned carriers could use their limit or block bandwidth for sites and services they see as competition.

While the idea of artificially controlling what data passes through service provider networks doesn't appeal to many companies or end users, the carriers are concerned that consumers may try to use more bandwidth than they can provide. In some areas networks are already being pushed to the limit, leaving many users with poor or degraded Internet access. Apple's iPhone, for example, is taxing AT&T's wireless network in several regions resulting in complaints of slow Internet access and dropped calls.

There are also concerns that the proposed FCC rules could have unintended side effects, including higher prices for consumers.

The FCC's proposed rules will have to make it through Congress and the agency's own five-person board before going into effect, and will likely be the cause of many heated discussions before gaining approval or falling apart during legal debates.

Comments

geoduck

This is a good thing. Normally I want to keep government out of this sort of business but the carriers, cellular and broadband, have shown an eagerness to abuse the system and their customers to increase profits, and disadvantage their competition unfairly. Remember this is not in reality a ‘free market’. Once you are locked into a cell carrier you are stuck until your contract is up. In a particular local you are unlikely to have access to more than one broadband provider. This is exactly the sort of abuse government is there to prevent.

As far as the worry that customers will “try to use more bandwidth than they can provide”. that’s called having a successful business.  I find it rather disingenuous for the providers to be complaining that they need to protect themselves from customers that want to use their system. Use some of those profits and upgrade your network if needed. In reality this is, IMO, just a smokescreen to hide their more abusive desires.

I don’t see much difference between this and government regulation of banking to prevent usury.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

The consequences of net neutrality will be as follows: (1) More congestion on networks. Operators will be more reluctant to shape traffic when there are regulatory review costs. (2) Escalation of bad end behavior from carrier to regulator. Instead of dealing with problem users or apps, carriers will demand that regulators enact rules to deal with said users and apps. Imagine the day when an a fart app that sucks new farts down from a website has to get FCC approval. If you can’t imagine that, imagine everyone talking about their “bandwidth footprint”. It’s coming, because responsibility for congestion will be spread from a relatively small group of abusers to everyone. (3) Private investment in networks will drop considerably, hampering carriers’ abilities to roll out new capacity.

geoduck

You and I have gone around on this before so I don’t expect agreement, but the debate is fun.

The real question is who will decide. I do not trust a company to do what is in the best interest of me, the country, and the Internet, when they have a profit motive influencing their judgement. They are not an unbiased judge. I would go so far that the current economic crisis and Enron are examples of when unbridled free markets self regulate. The job of the FCC is to assure a level playing field for all. If AT&T and ComCast have to continuously upgrade their networks, fine. That’s the cost of playing in this market. If they’re not willing to do it then others will. But to use their hypothetical future bandwidth problems to allow them to dictate what I can download, upload, watch, and play, is to give up the freedom that the Internet was founded on.

Bosco (Brad Hutchings)

You’re talking intentions, and I’m talking consequences. We’re talking past each other, so there’s not much of a conversation here. Apple and Google are also examples of unbridled free markets. Enron points out that failure is an option. It’s also a feature necessary to the process of markets learning.

Ultimately, the people who make bad decisions at companies are responsible to the bottom line. When government makes bad business decisions (see Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae), they get bailed out and are rewarded by the pols with bigger budgets. And then there’s GM…

I don’t trust the ISPs either, ok? But a consequence of regulation is entrenchment. It will, necessarily, preclude new entrants into the marketplace by jacking up compliance costs. That’s why companies love regulation when it can be applied to current and future competitors.

geoduck

You?re talking intentions, and I?m talking consequences.

IMO the consequences of bad intensions are worse than the consequences of well intentioned bad governance.

To answer your proposed three consequences you mentioned before

Operators will be more reluctant to shape traffic when there are regulatory review costs.

Good. That’s the idea. I don’t want AT&T telling me that I can’t use P2P or streaming video unless it’s from their approved source. Shaping traffic is the problem that needs to be eliminated.

Instead of dealing with problem users or apps, carriers will demand that regulators enact rules to deal with said users and apps.

I honestly don’t see this happening. The regulatory structure is far too unwieldily for the ISP to demand a ruling on every app, and web page. If they blocked anything that wasn’t ‘approved’ then they would be guilty of throttling. I want to see them letting everything through UNTIL they show that it is a problem. Innocent until proven guilty.

Private investment in networks will drop considerably, hampering carriers? abilities to roll out new capacity.

OMO exactly the opposite will happen. There is money to be made here. If they cannot throttle content then companies will have the excuse to keep improving their networks. Rather than hoarding cash to make this quarters bottom line look better they will HAVE to invest it in newer and faster technologies which will increase their profits down the road. If they don’t new companies will step in and take the business from them. It will force the ISPs to think long term. That is a very good thing.

If the providers want to charge more for 100Gb/mo connections then for 10Gb/mo that’s fine. I just don’t want them watching everything I do and trying to micromanage my connection, telling me what I can and can’t do. I don’t trust them or there intentions.

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