The FCC voted on its long-awaited net neutrality rules Dec. 21, 2010. NPR reports the rules are supposed to prevent rival Internet companies from discriminating against services from each other. For instance, having a wireless card for your laptop from Verizon shouldn’t interfere with your broadband service at home from AT&T.
Networks must provide access to all legally available online content no matter what company provides the content. Wireless companies are also under the same constraints.
Part of the rules deal with disclosure of network management practices. In this respect, wireless providers have fewer restrictions because they have different bandwidth requirements than hard-wired Internet services.
Critics worry the regulations didn’t go far enough–some worry business partners and their content may still be given preferential treatment ahead of other websites. If this happens, it would create a two-tiered Internet–that is, the top tier of websites, which pay for placement, and secondary websites without such access. Some consumer groups fear wireless services will continue to partner with businesses and offer some forms of content over others.
The basic premise of net neutrality is to keep the Internet a true information superhighway with unlimited access for everyone who uses it. The three in favor of the rules on the FCC panel are Democrats, while the two opposed are Republicans.
Both sides agree the compromise on the rules wasn’t perfect and there will likely be some legal challenges to work out in the courts. A recent suit against Comcast ruled the FCC had no legal authority to punish Comcast for violating the previous set of net neutrality rules adopted in 2005. That lawsuit was a major impetus for rule changes finalized this week.
My Own Internet Usage
We have four people in my house and four computers. We all have the same wired Internet connection and connect to the Internet through our cell phones as well. Our Internet usage probably won’t change much, as we use the web for everything from school, work and keeping in touch with family.
These new rules will certainly make my family more savvy users of the Internet as we look for reliable information. With more and more Internet service providers on the market, it would behoove companies to have dynamite service. We’ve even considered getting a new satellite Internet service.
Faster Internet connections are a must with all kinds of media downloads; my family uses them just as much as anyone else. We’re happy with the service we have, although we recognize faster Internet speeds are on the way and of course consumers will pay for them.
The problem with rises in cost for the Internet means those with money will have access to it, while those who can’t afford it will not. If public libraries can afford services to serve their patrons, they might become the last bastions of free Internet.
CNET reports what may also happen is networks may migrate more and more to wireless (i.e. money making) networks and leave wired networks behind to rot. Some think the new rules were unnecessary as millions of people already have access to affordable Internet services. Others feel the new regulations didn’t go far enough and open the door for even more businesses to have their way with the Internet.
NPR, “FCC Passes Net Neutrality Rules.”
Downes, Larry, “FCC’s Net neutrality ruling: Misplaced nostalgia.”