FCC to Push Net Neutrality Rules

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.