Rather than try to drag things out in the courts even further, the FCC has decide against appealing the recent net neutrality ruling. Instead, it’s going to do something far sneakier altogether – and simply write another, fresh set of rules governing the entire issue. The idea is that the new regulations will still ensure that ISPs can’t charge companies additional fees to gain greater bandwidth, and thus reach customers at much faster speeds than they normally would.
The FCC’s original rules were meant to ensure the same thing – that telecoms companies wouldn’t favor web traffic from bigger sites than others. But these rules were rejected due to what amounts to little more than a poor choice of wording – i.e. that the FCC had “chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers.” Essentially, what this statement means is that the FCC referred to broadband as an “information service”, which distinguishes it from common carriers like telephone providers.
Presumably, the new guidelines would outlaw the same thing, stopping ISPs from blocking or slowing down access to certain websites – only with a different wording. Such a rule would force ISPs to keep an even playing field, so to speak, which is what tiny web companies insist is only fair if they’re to compete with bigger ones.
On the other side of the argument is the big telcos and ISPs, who say that certain companies – like Netflix – use such a large amount of broadbadn that it costs more money to provide services for all of their customers. They want to be allowed to charge what they deem is a fair price for their services, but the new rules would force them to act more like electric or water utility companies, and provide the same service regardless of the cost.
The FCC’s previous two attempts to impose net neutrality rules on Verizon and Comcast have both been shut down by the courts, and these companies have since issued responses to the FCC’s latest move:
“Verizon remains committed to an open Internet that provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want,” it said on its policy blog.
We have always focused on providing our customers with the services and experience they want, and this focus has not changed.”
Comcast issued this statement:
“Comcast supported the Commission’s Open Internet Order as an appropriate balance of protection of consumer and business interests and we agreed in the NBCUniversal Transaction Order to abide by the Open Internet rules for seven years even if the rules were modified by the courts. With the direction announced today, FCC Chairman Wheeler has taken a thoughtful approach which creates a path for enforceable rules based on the appropriate authority outlined by the Court’s findings.”
“We continue to be committed to work with Chairman Wheeler and the Commission to play a constructive role going forward that will continue to allow the Internet to flourish.”