The U.S. government has never been accused of moving too quickly on anything, and the Net neutrality
rules that the FCC released late in 2010
are no exception. According to Reuters
, the White House’s Office of Management and Budget has finally signed off on the rules, which clears the way for implementation in the coming months.
In a nutshell, Net neutrality concerns whether or not the government should regulate ISPs, and if so, to what extent. The new rules are, predictably, a compromise; if you’re interested in the nitty-gritty details, you can read the FCC’s document
To say that Net neutrality has been a contentious issue would be an understatement; even the FCC commissioners narrowly approved the rules with a 3-2 vote. The issue has been hotly debated for years, and there’s been no sign of abatement as the rules creep closer to the day when they officially take effect.
Lobbyists, activists, and big businesses alike have taken up various positions on the issue. Google and Verizon took a lot of heat
for a set of Net neutrality rules they jointly proposed in lieu of government intervention. Verizon, MetroPCS Communications, and Comcast have taken the fight to the courts
, with mixed results, and the litigation is not expected to stop after the rules are officially on the books.
The Internet, compared to other telecommunications platforms, is rather new, and it’s changing constantly as new technologies, software, hardware, and consumer and business demands alter its landscape. It’s still a sort of wild frontier. As is the norm with any technological boom, law makers are struggling to figure out how to create laws governing the Internet that protect consumers, are fair to businesses, and foster further innovation.
It’s not an easy task; just understanding how the new technology works is hard, especially for public servants whose grandchildren are just young enough to have grown up with an Internet-connected computer in the house. (Not to speak ill of the deceased, but look no further than Ted Stevens’ infamous “series of tubes
” speech as evidence.)
The FCC’s rules are close to going into effect, but you can count on the fight over Net neutrality to continue even after they’re officially on the books. The courts should prepare to stay busy for a while.