The FCC is exploring some new proposals that many say will limit, if not outright destroy the concept of Net neutrality. Earlier this year we wrote about the shared fear of many that Internet Service Providers can now write their own rules. We suggested that companies like Comcast and AT&T could sell higher band frequency to the highest bidder. Well, that appears to be exactly what is coming down.
What does this mean?
Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, has announced that the Federal agency will propose allowing ISPs to charge for high bandwidth usage. They will now establish formal guidelines for settling rates between providers and services. This means that video companies like Netflix, Amazon,or gaming services, will likely be charged more for getting their products into your home in the most efficient manner possible. Wheeler argues that this is in keeping with federal court mandates, while maintaining the essential spirit of Net neutrality.
Sure, this is probably going to lead to rising costs, but there are bigger worries at play. Not only is this the first major change in a system that we've all become accustomed to, but wealthier companies with the money to pay large fees to ISPs would be favored over smaller, cutting-edge independents and start-ups. As we warned months ago, this runs the risk of stifling the birth of the next Twitter and Google. And that, in essence, was the great benefit of Net neutrality for over a decade.
According to Wheeler, the FCC wants to ensure that
- ISPs must be transparent about their business agreements
- ISPs cannot block any legal content, and
- ISPs "'_may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity."
It's also important to remember that most nations have been following the USA's lead in this area, willing to see how changes will settle out in Washington before instituting some of their own. So, shifts in policy here could have international repercussions. They don't call it the World Wide Web for nothing.
What can be done?
For now, these are nothing more than proposals. Members of the FCC will vote on the final rules on or about May 15. The public will be allowed to voice their opinion once that vote is finalized, and you can be sure that there will be plenty of voices to be heard. Congressional hearings are likely. You can always express your opinions to your Representatives, and be sure to know where they stand on the debate.
The final decision will be made by the end of the year. Please share your thoughts with us, and rest assured that we will continue to keep you informed on this topic.