FCC chairman issues edict on new net neutrality rules

FCC chairman issues edict on new net neutrality rules

Summary: Scheduled to be enforced by the end of the year, Internet service providers will need to disclose all "relevant information" and policies for governing networks.


Reports started spreading on Wednesday that the Federal Communications Commission would be implementing a new commercial angle for net neutrality, and those theories have been confirmed.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler published a statement on Thursday morning, commencing with the intention of "setting the record straight" over what has ballooned into a heavily debated topic in the tech world and beyond over the last six months.

Scheduled to be enforced by the end of the year, Internet service providers (ISPs) will need to disclose all "relevant information" and policies for governing networks.

The FCC also stipulated that ISPs cannot "act in a commercially unreasonable manner," meaning ISPs can't block legal content nor can they favor traffic from one entity over another.

Wheeler clarified that the "commercially unreasonable" test has been written to deflect "harm to competition and consumers stemming from abusive market activity."

To recall, Verizon Wireless won a court challenge to net neutrality rules, leading the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. to send the rules back to the FCC in January.

This sparked a debate about the future of the Internet as the move essentially meant broadband companies would be able to charge tech companies, such as Netflix or Hulu, more money for fast connections needed to deliver their services.

It was then left up to the FCC to rewrite the rules. In February, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler published a proposal he asserted will preserve the Internet as "an open platform for innovation and expression."

Fears have been mounting that changes to net neutrality would result in Internet censorship, routine network throttling upon certain users and services, the shifting of heavy fees from ISPs and placing the burden on consumers, or all the above.

Representing one of the biggest companies that wanted to preserve the old net neutrality regulations, CEO and founder Reed Hastings published a memo in March, lambasting the lawsuit won by Verizon Wireless while also calling out "Internet trolls."

In direct response to the Hastings memo, AT&T's public policy chief Jim Cicconi presented a rebuttal one day later.

Much like Hastings, Cicconi didn't mince words, and that's where the common ground came to an end.

"As we all know, there is no free lunch, and there’s also no cost-free delivery of streaming movies," Cicconi wrote at the time, "Someone has to pay that cost. Mr. Hastings’ arrogant proposition is that everyone else should pay but Netflix. That may be a nice deal if he can get it. But it’s not how the Internet, or telecommunication for that matter, has ever worked."

Topics: Government, Legal, Networking, Telcos, Verizon

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  • Here comes the taxes

    Our federal government needs every penny generated to keep giving us stuff so we will keep them in power. Since the vast middle part of our economy is taxed well over 50%, the have to get creative to keep buying votes.

    They were giddy with pleasure when every telephone call, every tweet, even having a phone would get sneaked onto your monthly bill. Then the Internet arrived, and they had no way to extract bribe money out of it. Aha, so first the FCC said it really liked "Net Neutrality" because it was good for business and our citizens.

    Then (by mistake of course) they lost a court case that let those who connect to your house charge you more if you compete with their non-programming. Now, as if they hadn't engineered the whole thing, the federal government is stepping in and permitting extra charges on individual offerings, both from the suppliers and on your bill. Here's the best part -- to pay for the thousands of new employees (whose real job is keeping their bosses elected) they get to charge taxes, and (even better part) get to decide who pays, what is included.

    I'm betting the taxes that destroy Net Neutrality are called "Net Neutrality Taxes". Watch your next ISP bill.
    • Tell me why everybody thinks

      ...our gummint stands to gain by allowing ISP's to charge users for their use? You and I pay premiums for extra bandwidth, why shouldn't content providers do the same? If the same movie were being sold on 35mm film, the producer would have to pay for the footage. If it's on broadcast TV, airtime isn't sold on a per-subscriber basis. 18 wheelers pay road taxes based on their cargo capacity, veggies are sold by the pound, ad valorem taxes are based on, well, valorem... Isn't our market system based on a "you-get-what-you-pay-for" premise? What's so radically different about bandwidth? It's a commodity, just like gasoline, or electrical power.
  • "Everybody should pay but Netflix"

    Netflix's customers are the ones who are paying already (and Netflix pays for it's own Internet service, I'm sure. And it's not reasonable to expect Netflix or any other online business to pay every ISP that it's customers might be using anywhere in the world for preferential access to its network.
    John L. Ries
  • Netflix is right

    AT&T arguement is fundamentally flawed, but one has to applaud them for trying defend their audacious position. The problem I see here is two fold.

    Firstly, in the ISP sector there are too few players, and that resulting lack of competition has let a kind of oligarchy to form. They both compete with and defend each other in whatever services they provide and the prices they charge consumers even if they are agregious. This state of affairs exists across both the wire and wireless providers, which leaves no w.here for the consumer or content providers to turn. The Federal Goverment has compounded this issue, by largely standing by and allowing these near monopolies to exist, effectively stifling competetion. Lack of compettion destroys innovation and removes the pressure to keep prices in check. At least the FCC is moving in the right direction now, and they should be supported.

    My 2nd issue is how AT&T believes that they and other ISP's shoud be able to charge 2x for the same bandwidth. I'll use myself as an example, I currently pay for the fastest speed available from my ISP, at any given time even on max download only about 70-80% of that is available to me, so I am being overcharged already. Of the bandwidth I do have available to me, Netflix does not even utilize 1/10 inorder to work well, and this is one of the most demanding services as a consumer that I can access according to AT&T. In fact Netflix would work just fine for even the slowest speeds provided by my ISP, so am I missing where there is this massive burden to provide for and build out even more bandwidth. Having worked in the telecom sector for part of my career, I understand the costs associated with building a massive information infrastructure...however, those costs are already paid for by the people generating the demand for content, and as in my case many times...over paid for. This strikes me as just a case of plain old greed by the leadership of these huge companies, who will then pocket the additional profits and enjoy the boost their stock prices get as well.

    If anything At&t and these other ISP's should be greatful to Netflix and other content providers for keeps them in business and helping them charge as much as they do by creating demand. So I am all for strong net neutrality, someone has to say enough is enough.