Net neutrality defended by US regulators

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By Larry Banks

The chairman of the US communications watchdog has proposed new protection measured that the principles of net neutrality will be enforced.

Net Neutrality to receive a boost

In a Wired article last week, Tom Wheeler indicated that he would place restrictions on how mobile broadband and fixed line providers handle the data that flows through their networks. He plans to prevent service providers from being able to create so-called Internet fast lanes for anyone who is willing to pay the price.

Unfortunately, the networks are not to happy, with Verizon indicating that they may start legal action as a result. Mr Wheeler described the measures as “strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC”.

Net Neutrality - Internet Open

Net neutrality means that all packets of data, whether they are video or web pages, are treated equally as they travel across a network.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has indicated he wants to classify Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to make them public utilities, which means they will be able to regulate them.

“These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritisation, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services,” he said.

I propose to fully apply – for the first time ever – those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission – Tom Wheeler

This will allow the FCC to stop ISPs from blocking traffic from competing services, and from creating fast lanes for the Internet companies who are prepared to pay more.

This will mean far heavier regulation for both fixed line and wireless providers and will give the FCC the power to stop ISPs from blocking traffic from services which rival their own, or from setting up fast lanes for those internet companies prepared to pay.

Verizon said that “We have not publicly stated, nor do we intend to speculate, as to what we may or may not do regarding an order that we have not seen and has not yet been approved,”.

The ISPs have pointed out that they need some kind of prioritisation for traffic, and that bandwidth-intensive services like Netflix and YouTube are forcing them to spend billions in additional infrastructure, and that someone should be contributing to the costs of maintaining their networks.

Verizon previously challenged the FCC’s net neutrality rules in January of last year.

Net Neutrality - Netflix and Verizon

The courts however found in favour of Verizon, which meant they could start charging providers like Netflix to send data through its pipes.

The chart below indicates what happened shortly after Netflix made a deal with Comcast, in terms of the network speeds.

Net Neutrality - Netflix

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the world wide web has said that maintaining net neutrality was “critical for the future of the web and the future of human rights, innovation and progress in Europe”.

Images Courtesy of DepositPhotos