Goodbye Net Neutrality: FCC Backs Down on Internet Traffic Equality

| Analysis

After a January ruling from a federal appeals court struck down regulations requiring that all Internet traffic be treated equally, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)  promised revisions to ensure Net Neutrality doesn't die. Now it seems that isn't the case because the FCC has changed course and instead will let Internet service providers charge companies like Netflix and Facebook for preferential treatment and guarantees of faster data transfers through their networks -- and that's a change that flies in the face of what was promised in Net Neutrality.

The foundation of Net Neutrality is the idea that all traffic flowing through the Internet is treated equally regardless of what it contains or where it starts. Streaming movies and music, for example, would pass through data pipes just the same as email messages and app downloads.

New FCC policy lets ISPs give some Internet traffic preferential treatmentNew FCC policy lets ISPs give some Internet traffic preferential treatment

Verizon and other Internet service providers, however, weren't on board with requirements that would stop them from striking deals where they charge content providers fees to guarantee their content moved between network nodes without any slowdowns. They felt companies like Netflix, which use substantially more bandwidth than other companies, should pay for that heavy usage because ISPs need to pay for the infrastructure to make sure their networks don't fail under the heavy load, and so Verizon sued to reverse the FCC's rules.

While the court agreed that the FCC could regulate Internet traffic restrictions, it gave the win to Verizon on a technicality because the Commission can't treat companies as if they are -- and aren't -- utilities at the same time. The court urged the FCC to find a way to impose its regulations within its own guidelines, but now it looks as if that isn't happening.

Instead of moving forward with rules that would prohibit companies like Comcast and Verizon from charging for guaranteed bandwidth, the FCC is stepping aside and saying such deals just need to be fair. The FCC also said ISPs can't slow down or throttle Internet traffic for companies that don't pay up, but also said that it's OK to charge for guaranteed faster throughput.

To-may-to, to-mah-to. ISPs can't threaten to cut bandwidth for specific domains or services, but they can charge for faster data throughput.

For companies like Netflix, that means they have to strike deals with ISPs or face the issue they've already been trying to overcome: degraded and stalled video streams. Netflix must've seen the writing on the wall, because it has already started working on deals for guaranteed bandwidth.

With deals like this in place, end users should get exactly what they expect in the form of content that looks as good as they've been promised, and without stutters and stalls in their video and audio streams. For content providers, it means they can deliver the level of quality they want.

Those quality audio and video streams will, however, come at a price -- which is exactly what companies like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast want. The money to cover those costs has to come from somewhere, and in the end that means customers. Unless content providers choose to absorb the extra costs, it's a safe bet we'll see that reflected in our monthly service bills.

Comments

Jamie

I had hoped we’d never see this day. I guess it’s true: money is the only ‘speech’ our American government can hear or cares to respect anymore. A sad ruling, indeed. :/

geoduck

Net neutrality dies
Spying and tracking become commonplace

Inexorably the internet is dying, one stab would at a time. The idea of an open forum where all ideas are free and everyone is equal is being replaced by a world wide Mall where you only get in, get any benefit, and get heard, if you have the cash.

It’s a tragedy and future generations will wonder how we could have let it happen. How we could have been so stupid.

mactoid

So democracy dies, not with a bang or a whimper, but with the sound of several Supreme Court gavels (future historians will note the irony that democracy was killed by the branch of government designed to protect it).

I think we should be among the first group to think of a new name for our new, autocratic government.  I’m thinking “weath-ocracy”.  Any other ideas?

geoduck

mactoid
The term is Oligarchy
A study published last week by Princeton and Northwestern University concluded that the US is no longer a Democracy, but rather an Oligarchy run for and by the rich and special interests, much in line with Russia.
http://www.nation.lk/edition/lens/item/28254-us-is-an-oligarchy-a-scientific-study-says.html
to quote

When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.

 

iJack

But we end-users pay for bandwidth in the same way, and always have. The prices are tiered in accordance with the speed we get.  So now that content providers are going to have to pay more to deliver their HD movies to a growing customer base, how does that hurt me, or you?

Even if I have misunderstood the whole Net Neutrality thing, someone please explain what the downside is for us, the customers.

BWilcox

iJack, did you read the article….“Those quality audio and video streams will, however, come at a price—which is exactly what companies like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast want. The money to cover those costs has to come from somewhere, and in the end that means customers. Unless content providers choose to absorb the extra costs, it’s a safe bet we’ll see that reflected in our monthly service bills.”

iJack

Of course, I read it; and a half-dozen others like it. Did you read my response? We have always paid more for value-added products and services. Why should be different now?

Also, there is this:

“Yes, Internet service providers will be prohibited from slowing down or blocking traffic, but they will be able to charge for faster data delivery, which really isn’t any different from throttling.”

This is nonsense. Hooray for the end of throttling! When I order an “up to 25 Mbs” service from Verizon, it’s now going to be in the range I always hoped it would be and am paying for; 23-25 Mbs, not the 15-23 Mbs I am likely to get now. OTOH, if I want to be able to watch full, flawless 1080p streaming video, I may need a 50 Mbs service. Should I not pay for it? Do the ISPs not have the right to ask for more?

BWilcox

iJack how do you know you that you will now get 23-25Mbs service now. You are still on the “up to 25Mbs” service, which means that you will still probably get the 15-23 Mbs. You want a guaranteed 25Mbs service, that will cost you extra, and the price of your Netflix streaming service just went up also. You like to use Hulu for streaming video also, but they don’t want to pay the ISP’s for faster delivery. This means you still get the choppy, stuttering video you had before even though you have a guaranteed fast connection.

iJack

”..Internet service providers will be prohibited from slowing down or blocking traffic..”

BWilcox

It will not be blocked or slowed down, but if the providers of content (Netflix / Hulu / etc…) do not pay to get on the “fast” track they are by definition on the “slow” track.

iJack

The minute a commenter turns to hypothetical situations, speculation and inventing new ‘definitions’ for words, is the minute I know he has nothing of merit left to say.

BWilcox

Whatever….

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