Net Neutrality – A Win for Liberty or Lawyers?

On February 26, 2015, the FCC ruled in favor of net neutrality by applying Title II (of the Communications Act of 1934 to Internet service providers and reclassifying broadband access as a telecommunications service. Championing the new regulations, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said, "[t]his is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept." While Mr. Wheeler views the regulations as a referee, Telecom company's insist that the measures will do more harm than good, and consumers will bear the brunt of change. What is net neutrality? In short, adoption of Title II established three bright line rules… No Blocking: broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. No Throttling: broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices. No Paid Prioritization: broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration – in other words, no “fast lanes.”  This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates. Who is for it and who is against it? Those who support net neutrality argue that allowing “paid prioritization” unfairly raises prices on content services and that adoption of title II levels the playing field for all Americans. Opponents say the Title II designation will stifle innovation in broadband. A group of Internet service providers (ISPs), including AT&T, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, and Verizon, argue that the new classification permits the FCC to conduct "unprecedented government micromanagement of all aspects of the Internet economy." What does this law mean for the consumer? The FCC promises that broadband will continued to cost the same amount as it did before. This ruling establishes the authority to implement regulations put in place in 2010, and will grant the FCC the administrative authority to examine practices and hear complaints. This past week, at the Mobile World Conference, Mr. Wheeler seemed argued that he his plans have been mischaracterized. Wheeler dismisses the idea that adoption of Title II is heavy handed regulation but is instead, as Mr. Wheeler characterized it, a referee throwing up the card when someone acts in an unfair manner. In Europe there are proposals coming through the European commission which would allow specialized services, being provided by telecom groups, to be delivered at guaranteed speeds for customers - very different from what has been proposed int the US. Many opponents have accused the President as relaying pressure from Facebook and google to take action on their behalfs. While adoption of the regulations will begin to have an effect in early summer, the telecoms companies are saying to Mr. Wheeler - “we’ll see you in court.” http://www.mediaite.com/tv/john-oliver-explains-fccs-net-neutrality-ruling-to-confused-republicans/