The Federal Communications Commission is facing resistance over net neutrality rules that would allow companies to pay broadband providers for faster access to consumers.
"Our work is just beginning as we review the more than one million comments we have received… There is no question the Internet must remain open as a platform for innovation, economic growth and free expression. Today's deadline is a checkpoint, not the finish line for public comment." Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman
The FCC voted May 15 to move forward with the agency's proposed net neutrality rules. The rules, which allow broadband providers to reach deals with companies for preferred access to their customers, were published shortly after the final vote. The vote passed three to two.
Open Internet advocates fear the proposed net neutrality rules would allow broadband providers to make deals with large companies -- such as streaming video providers, mobile messaging providers, and online video game producers, among others -- for faster access to subscribers at the expense of newer, smaller companies.
Several of the largest Internet service providers in the U.S., including AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, warned the FCC on May 13 that subjecting the Internet to increased regulation could threaten jobs and slow the growth of broadband.
"The average broadband speeds jumped 25 percent in 2013 alone, highlighting there are no 'slow lanes' in today's Internet… Title II backers fail to explain where the next hundreds of billions of dollars of risk capital will come from to improve and expand today's networks." Letter from ISPs
The FCC does not need congressional approval to regulate broadband providers using Title II, but since Congress controls the FCC's budget, such a move could generate significant political resistance. Several senators, including Sen. Tom Franken (D-MN) and Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), support Title II regulation.
"Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission's rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent." Open letter from tech companies
The FCC confirmed June 13 that it is now "collecting information" from content providers (including Netflix) and ISPs (including Comcast and Verizon) in order to determine whether or not broadband providers are degrading their customers' streaming video performance by allowing connections to become congested.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler warned ISPs July 23 that they are required to give subscribers "accurate and truthful" information for subjects like pricing and actual download speeds. Wheeler said he would hold ISPs "accountable" for not providing such information, but did not say what that might entail.
The FCC first implemented net neutrality rules in late 2010, but it was quickly sued by Verizon to prevent their imposition. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 14 that the agency did not have the regulatory authority to implement net neutrality rules as they were then written.
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