November 6, 2014
Following the recent uproar about net neutrality (see FCC’s Net Neutrality Decision May Also Affect Wireless Networks for some background information), the FCC has finally come forth with a possible solution.
Net neutrality – the idea that online content and applications should be equally accessible – came under attack earlier this year when the FCC first considered eliminating net neutrality for internet service providers.
However, following the logic that a good compromise leaves both parties dissatisfied, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler may have been too successful – the plan is unlikely to get any supporters.
Essentially, the plan is to “split the Internet” in order to compromise between carriers and consumers. But what exactly does this mean?
According to reports,* the FCC would separate the “back-end” connections between carriers and content providers from the “retail” connections between carriers and consumers.
While net neutrality would be required on the back-end (classifying it as a common carrier), Internet service providers would still be allowed to cut special deals with consumers. For the FCC, this would allow for easier supervision to prevent deals between content companies and carriers.
In other words, carriers (who want zero regulations regarding their special dealings) would have to suffer monitoring from the FCC, which would effectively block mega-deals with content providers.
Meanwhile, consumers (who want net neutrality to be enforced across the Internet as a whole) would have to pay carriers for faster Internet and better wireless connections.
While it’s still unclear whether this proposal would apply to wireless networks (since more U.S. consumers are using smart devices to access the internet every day) in addition to wired Internet, the plan is unlikely to garner much support from carriers – and highly likely to spark lots of pushback from consumers unwilling to pay more for the speed or quality of their Internet experience.
Net neutrality refers to the idea that online content and applications should be equally accessible, meaning that no websites or online services should be faster or slower as a result of special deals with internet service providers.
It’s been a hot topic for months now, especially once the American public realized the direct ramifications to its everyday internet usage. This summer alone, proponents of net neutrality voiced their complaints in the form of 1.2 million-plus comments on the FCC website demanding that the FCC protect net neutrality by banning special deals.
It basically boils down to this: should the FCC allow internet service providers to favor or block certain websites or online services, based on special deals with content companies?
Experts predict that if this proposal fails, the FCC will have to make the ultimate decision: “Either regulate the whole Internet, or none at all.”*
* Wagner, Mitch. Net Neutrality: Latest Proposal Will Make Everybody Unhappy, Light Reading. Light Reading.