The Federal Communications Commission has proposed new guidelines regarding “net neutrality,” which theoretically prohibits Internet providers from favoring traffic to certain websites over others.
To give you some background, the big cable Internet providers, such as Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner, believe they have a right to provide faster and more reliable connections to certain Internet sites if those sites pay for a higher level of service. That’s what happened in a recent deal between Netflix and Comcast, in which Netflix paid for better access to Comcast’s data network. (As a result, Netflix’s streaming speeds have increased 65 percent since the deal began in February.) Advocates of net neutrality believe that this practice would stifle free expression online and direct users preferentially towards what broadband companies want them to see, be it sites that have paid for better access or the services themselves. competitors of broadband providers.
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After a court case in January in which the United States Court of Appeals in Washington, DC, ruled in favor of broadband companies, largely on procedural grounds, the FFC has been trying to craft guidelines for its plan, called The Open Internet. The FCC wants guidelines that will appease cable companies while protecting an open Internet as much as possible. His latest proposal is not perfect for either party, but it may prove conciliatory enough to win support from both parties.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement today (April 24) saying the latest proposal would prohibit broadband providers from intentionally blocking or throttling websites. In theory, this would ensure that Internet users can still access whatever content they want without undue restrictions.
“To be clear,” Wheeler wrote in an FCC blog post, “[No] legal content may be blocked … [Internet service providers] It cannot act in a commercially unreasonable way to harm the Internet, which includes favoring the traffic of an affiliated entity ”.
Despite Wheeler’s assurances, the proposal could allow providers to manage traffic more efficiently for sites involved in commercial relationships with cable providers. The FCC will allow this only on terms that are “commercially reasonable” for all parties involved, although the FCC itself would have the final say on which agreements meet those criteria.
The distinction between not throttling any website and giving preferential treatment to others is a fine one, and it’s unclear how cable companies could achieve this in a way that maintains Truenet’s neutrality. It is easy to see how this arrangement can be inconvenient for users.
Let’s say, for example, that Verizon made sure its own Redbox video streaming service worked smoothly for all users, but left Netflix to fend for itself. If the majority of Verizon users wanted to use Netflix, they might find the site too crowded to use it, and Redbox might be a more attractive alternative.
Approval of the FCC proposal rests with the US Court of Appeals Whatever the case, a fully neutral Internet based on equal treatment for all will soon be a thing of the past in the United States.
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