FCC net neutrality vote could end era of free and open Internet
A proposal establishing rules on net neutrality will be voted on by the Federal Communications Commission on Dec. 21. At issue are pay to play rules giving Internet service providers the power to charge higher prices for more bandwidth. The FCC net neutrality vote seeks a middle ground that prevents outright blocking of content but recognizes the need to manage data-hogging video and peer-to-peer traffic.
The net neutrality battlefield
Currently the FCC has no authority to regulate the Internet. The net neutrality proposal will be used to present Internet regulation legislation to Congress. An explosion in video and P2P traffic, along with the proliferation of smartphones and networked tablet devices, has put a strain on available bandwidth. ISPs such as Comcast and Verizon support a pay-to-play system that allows them to control congestion by charging customers more for a so called “Internet fast lane.” With bandwidth demand exploding, ISP have already started charging content providers and throttling P2P traffic. The content providers say such a two-tiered Internet is unfair and should be illegal.
The FCC net neutrality proposal
The FCC proposes to prevent ISPs from manipulating “normal” traffic for Internet users, but allow them to implement “traffic management on P2P networks and levy fees on providers of bandwidth-intensive content such as Netflix. The FCC net neutrality proposal leaves wireless ISPs such as Verizon virtually unfettered to control bandwidth. Some analysts expect rising prices for faster mobile data access and pay-to-play rules that will be challenged by Internet stakeholders in court. On Dec. 10 more than 80 groups sent a letter to the FCC saying that the net neutrality proposal would harm consumers, stifle innovation and irreversibly end the free and open Internet.
A sneak peak at the end of net neutrality
Giant ISPs have already been planning how to exploit the FCC proposal. DailyTech reports that a presentation by suppliers to AT&T and Verizon was leaked outlining a two-tiered Internet. The strategy includes charging mobile data customers extra monthly fees per web page accessed and per MB consumed, plus YouTube, Facebook and Skype access fees. The presentation also recommends that ISPs create their own social network and video sites and offer their customers free access for choosing those instead.