Well, the day has finally arrived. Today the FCC will be voting for, and mostly likely approving, their set of net neutrality rules/regulations. While this is a step towards protecting our internet resources it may not be big enough nor powerful enough. We know how the government has a tendency to over-promise and under-deliver, lopping off important legislation for what some of them claim is the protection of a “free market”.
When you get down to it the new legislation will, at its heart, restrict fixed-line connections from blocking content and services or unnecessarily throttling connections. I’m sure Comcast/Verizon/Frontier aren’t happy about this but the internet we know and love today would not have gotten to where it is if these providers had tried anything like they’ve lately hinted at during its infancy. With any luck, these restrictions will help maintain that level of service and preserve the internet in its current form for generations to come.
On the other hand, providers will now have the ability to charge additional fees based on the type of data being transmitted. The claim is that this will help with congestion, and that may be, but you damn well know that this freedom will be abused by service providers. So, you like watching instant streaming movies through Netflix? Well Comcast or Verizon have on-demand services as well, and they probably don’t like that Netflix is competing with them and using their network to do it. Under the guise of controlling congestion they could charge Netflix an additional fee as punishment for competing with them. In turn a few things could happen, the price you pay Netflix for streaming could rise dramatically, or if they get penalized enough, the entire service could be shutdown, I’m sure this would be the provider’s conclusion of choice. This will effectively turn the internet into a pay-per-view model. Once again, this is double-dipping, I’m paying for a connection with a set connection speed by doing so I deserve to be able to access that speed for whatever I want and as much as I want, end of story. If you charge Netflix, then charge me, I’m paying twice, as Netflix’s price will increase to cover your stupid fees.
No doubt Verizon saw the writing on the wall, as evidenced by their sell off of many of their physical connections to Frontier and Fairpoint last year. This allows them to focus on more profitable FiOS and wireless markets. You know, when you consider that the FCC’s proposed regulations still allow wireless connections full reign over their bandwidth control, it starts to make sense that Verizon would want to put more “focus on the more profitable markets.” Think about it like this…
Do you enjoy the Navigation app on your Android/Windows Phone 7/iPhone? Well there’s a possibility, with the freedom that the carriers are going to be given, that they will have the option to block the internet access that the navigation apps need and force you to use their pay navigation solutions. Supposedly the thin set of rules in the FCC proposal, prohibit the blocking of any service that they themselves are competitors against. Skype would fall under this category, and supposedly navigation would as well, but we’ll see. Large corporations are really good at finding loopholes. How about this, say your provider has a political agenda, don’t act like this doesn’t happen, look at Fox News. That provider, with these freedoms in place, could legally block your access to sites that don’t jive with their political views. Doesn’t matter what political group you associate with, if you weren’t able to get to that group’s website, how upset would you be? Do you want that to happen? This is what everyone is talking about when they’re saying the FCC’s proposal doesn’t do enough.
We can only hope that the FCC is thinking about what really matters here, the consumers (they aren’t), as they are commissioned to do. Al Franken, I’m beginning to like this guy more and more, stated that these rules are “toothless,” “riddled with loopholes,” and that the FCC “has given its stamp of approval to online discrimination.” I hope he’s wrong, I really do, but lately the FCC has been acting as if it’s been neutered, showing no signs of having the guts to do anything for the consumer. Many politicians seem to think that any regulation is bad and undermines the purpose of a free market, which is self-regulation as a result of consumer choice. The consumer tells the corporations how to they want to do business with them, and the corporations that are unwilling to bend to these demands collapse after the consumers head to their competitors. Unfortunately, many markets are missing that very important, consumer choice. With no competitors to go to, what is there to convince a provider to accept their users’ demands. Since a majority of the providers feel the same way about net neutrality, having a choice wouldn’t make much of a difference anyhow. Consumers won’t feel compelled to abandon their provider when they think the alternatives aren’t any better.
It’s too early to say what will happen with this new regulation and, if wireless carriers, after abusing their newfound freedoms will get pulled under similar regulations. Something needs to be done, will these regulations help, probably not. But only time will tell.
- FCC set to back Internet traffic rules (msnbc.msn.com)
- FCC to Pass (Fake) Net Neutrality Measure (towleroad.com)
- FCC Net Neutrality Rules Slammed from All Sides (wired.com)
- Al Franken: The Most Important Free Speech Issue of Our Time (alternet.org)