Regulators Approve Tougher Rules For Internet Providers

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intInternet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile will have to act in the “public interest” when providing a mobile connection to your home or phone, under new rules approved Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission.

The rules put the Internet in the same regulatory camp as the telephone, banning providers from “unjust or unreasonable” business practices.

The approval is considered a victory for consumer advocates and companies like Netflix and Twitter that have long warned that some providers want to create paid “fast lanes” on the Internet, edging out cash-strapped startups and smaller Internet-based businesses.

The broadband industry is expected to sue, arguing that the plan constitutes dangerous overreach. Republicans in Congress said they will try to pass legislation scrapping the rules, although it’s unlikely that such a bill would be signed into law by President Barack Obama.

“One way or another, I am committed to moving a legislative solution, preferably bipartisan, to stop monopoly-era phone regulations that harm Internet consumers and innovation,” Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee, said in a statement earlier this week.

Twitter said the new rules were a matter of protecting free expression.

“Safeguarding the historic open architecture of the Internet and the ability for all users to `innovate without permission’ is critical to American economic aspirations and our nation’s global competitiveness,” Twitter wrote in a company blog post this week.

Net neutrality is the idea that websites or videos load at about the same speed. That means you won’t be more inclined to watch a particular show on Amazon Prime instead of on Netflix because Amazon has struck a deal with your service provider to load its data faster.

For years, providers mostly agreed not to pick winners and losers among Web traffic because they didn’t want to encourage regulators to step in and because they said consumers demanded it. But that started to change around 2005, when YouTube came online and Netflix became increasingly popular. On-demand video became known as data hogs, and evidence began to surface that some providers were manipulating traffic without telling consumers.

By 2010, the FCC enacted open Internet rules, but the agency’s legal approach was eventually struck down. FCC officials are hoping to erase the legal ambiguity by no longer classifying the Internet as an “information service” but a “telecommunications service” subject to Title II of the 1934 Communications Act.

That would dramatically expand regulators’ power over the industry by requiring providers to act in the public’s interest and enabling the FCC to fine companies found to be employing “unreasonable” business practices.

The FCC says it won’t apply some sections of Title II, including price controls. That means rates charged to customers for Internet access won’t be subject to preapproval. But the law allows the government to investigate if consumers complain that costs are unfair.

(AP)




3 COMMENTS

  1. The best analogy would be to require the same postage for mailing a first class letter as for mailing a large heavy parcel or a mass mailing. It means the small users pay the same rate for their modest needs as the big users. For example, if you live next to a big dorm with a hundred students, all flushing and bathing away – would it be fair for you to pay the same water bill as the dorm. Big powerful companies such as Netflix should pay more, and if they want the best possible service, they should have to pay for it.

    And that doesn’t address other issues such as discouraging investment in broadband, or allowing the government to ban content that isn’t politically correct by whatever the FCC this moment sees as objectionable.

  2. Nothing about water bills.
    Nothing about postage.

    It means that Internet providers can not speed up or slow down websites for any cause.

    The best analogy, without Net Neutrality, would be ….
    Comcast (who owns MSNBC) will speed up access to MSNBC and slow down access to redstate.com, foxnews.com, etc.

    Do you want that?

  3. Akuperman: not sure if you are correct everyone pays their isp based on their needs and this may not effect the multitude of plans. Rather it’s about the broadband companies that control important routers on the Internet. They will not be allowed to charge for quicker routes. Not sure…