FCC Releases Net Neutrality Rules

We have to believe that most of the suits in Washington, D.C. were in a hurry to get back home for the holidays, but an FCC ruling was able to be hammered out just before the Christmas break. Net neutrality has been one of the biggest issues in the FCC circle this year, along with rural broadband. As the Internet has grown, so has concern that ISPs may have too much power over their users. Earlier in the year, Comcast was chided for "throttling users" that were transferring peer-to-peer applications, which led to a heated debate over what an Internet service provided can and cannot do to a user's bandwidth.

Net neutrality is a huge, tangled issue. There are fierce debates ongoing on both sides, from those who think the government needs to regulate ISPs and those who think the government should stay far away from the Internet altogether. These newest rules aren't nearly the only ones we'll hear of over the next few years, but it's a start. On Christmas Eve, the FCC managed to release the full net neutrality rules for the world to pore over. They were only passed by a 3-2 vote, and both Republicans and Democrats had reason to complain.

But that's politics, and that's definitely not unexpected. The new rules are sort of soft; there's nothing too hard-hitting in here, and nothing too shocking. First off, ISPs will be required to be very transparent about how they manage their network. They can no longer throttle or discriminate in the shadows; how they manage their network must be made public and okayed by the FCC. The new rules also disallow ISPs from blowing a lawful application or service, or throttling the speeds depending on application. But there's a loophole here. ISPs can accept paid prioritization, with select outfits being able to pay for selectively faster access to an ISP's customer base. These setups will obviously undergo intense scrutiny before being passed, though.

On the wireless side, the rules are far less certain. Wireless operators will still have to be transparent about how they manage traffic, but that's about it. They also cannot block certain applications willy-nilly, but overall, they have far more flexibility in controlling their network due to wireless being far newer and subject to new competitors than wireline. None of these new rules will make a huge, huge impact in how your Internet is delivered most likely, but of course, this is just the tip of the iceberg. What happens next is anyone's guess.
Tags:  Internet, FCC, ISP