On Dec. 21, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to back Chairman Julius Genachowski’s plan for what is commonly known as “net neutrality,” or rules prohibiting Internet providers from interfering with legal web traffic, wrote Amy Schatz and Shayndi Raice of the Wall Street Journal (Dec. 22).
Schatz and Raice explain that the FCC rules are designed to prevent potential future harms and could shape how U.S. Internet users access and use the web in coming years. “The Internet industry will be increasingly centered around the fastest-growing categories of Internet traffic – online video, gaming and mobile services, analysts say,” they wrote.
“The new rules will also allow phone and cable companies to sell to Internet companies like Amazon.com faster data delivery for extra money, particularly on wireless networks.” For example, Google’s YouTube could pay Verizon a bonus for guaranteed delivery of its videos to consumers’ smartphones. But any such priority must be disclosed and the FCC would likely probe and reject such efforts, measures that could lead to many legal changes to the rules over time.
“Consumer groups and other organizations, including the American Library Association, oppose such high-speed toll lanes, arguing all Americans should have the same quality of Internet access,” write Schatz and Raice.
“Wireless companies are less restricted by the new rules – a win for the industry because consumers are increasingly accessing the web (via smartphones). Genachowski said mobile carriers faced more congestion issues than other companies and need more leeway to manage their networks.”
Carriers have had mixed reactions to the new rules, wrote Phil Goldstein of FierceWireless (Dec. 22) “Verizon was the harshest critic of the rules, (saying) it is ‘the only Internet service provider that has publicly embraced openness obligations for both its wireline and wireless broadband Internet access services,’ which it said is positive for its customers and business,” he wrote.
“AT&T, which has been a consistently vocal critic of net neutrality, expressed its displeasure with the rules, (saying) there is an ‘utter absence of any evidence that abuses are occurring in the Internet market,” Goldstein added.
“Spint Nextel was more upbeat, (calling) the plan ‘a fair and balanced approach’ to a difficult issue,” and even commended the FCC “for the careful and deliberate approach it was taken on this issue.”
“T-Mobile USA, for its part, was mainly neutral,” stating that it would carefully review the FCC’s decision before commenting on it.