Right now there are no rules in the United States that prevent internet service providers from prioritizing some types of content. For instance an ISP could block or slow down traffic from video streaming websites unless the operators of those websites paid a fee. But the federal government could soon prevent ISPs from doing that.

Over the past few years there’s been a lot of debate over “net neutrality,” which is the idea that all internet traffic should be treated equally by ISPs… and now it looks like the Federal Communications Commission is set to adopt rules that would preserve net neutrality.

speed test

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler recently announced plans to classify internet service providers as common carriers, which means they’d be treated as public utilities like electric, water, or natural gas providers.

Now the New York Times reports that Republican leaders have backed down from their opposition of the plan, which paves the way for the FCC to make the changes as early as Thursday, February 26th.

Does this mean net neutrality is a done deal forever and ever? Not necessarily. The FCC rules can be changed by future members of the commission and it’s likely that ISPs will challenge the rules in court.

On the one hand, proponents of net neutrality argue that it would have been difficult for some of the most popular services today such as Google, YouTube, Twitter, or Netflix to have grown into thriving businesses if they had to pay higher fees to get deliver content to users than their competitors.

On the other hand, ISPs suggest that the rules are unnecessary, could affect their revenue potential, and could diminish their ability to invest in further infrastructure improvements. Republicans and other conservatives, meanwhile, have argued that classifying internet service providers as public utilities opens the door toward all sorts of stricter regulations on internet access.

All told, while the FCC rules may change this week, it’ll probably be a long time before the debate is over.

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15 replies on “FCC expected to adopt net neutrality rules this week”

  1. Right now, there is no requirement that the Post Office deliver all envelopes, cartons, or packages, in the sequence accepted. The USPS, instead, charges different shippers different rates. “Priority” mail, the highest price service, allows some shippers to “jump to the front of the queue” and grab space on the next neighborhood delivery truck, regardless of how much other mail must be “bumped”. Those more interested in economy than scheduling may send packets of mail “bulk” or “3rd class” rates, meaning that the local neighborhood delivery van will bring it to your house when and if there’s capacity in the system.

    Suppliers like NetFlix abuse this system. They used their clout, as a major consumer of postal services, to send DVDs at a postage rate per piece unavailable to ordinary consumers.

    Write your congressman and DEMAND “Postal Neutrality” so that all mailers, Netflix, grandma, Montgomery Wards, and buggy whip manufacturers, ALL can get the same class of mail service in the same priority at the same rate. “Class-less” mail — it’s only fair.

    Please ignore 4 centuries of economic experience suggesting that classing mail by the willingness of the shipper to pay, and the cost of the carrier to handle, should have ANY impact on the post pricing system. Class-less mail, postal neutrality, put the USPS under FCC rules.

    Boldly go, where no one has gone before.

    1. Because, as we all know, the US postal service’s business model is second to none, and has an exemplary record of execution that the ISPs would do well to follow…

      (You also seem to be conveniently ignoring the thousands of pages of federal regulations that cover the delivery of mail by the USPS that make the proposed net neutrality rules look like chicken feed.)

      None of the arguments against net neutrality holds water. All over the world, internet regulations are far more stringent than they are in the US (and still will be after the net neutrality change), and yet access is considerably cheaper on average, investment faster, and speeds higher. Unbundling the last mile in the UK has created competitive market for internet access where otherwise only two or three providers would dominate the entire country (as in the US). That’s not even on the table here.

      1. My poor fellow, you seem to be all over the place with your post!

        First, you ironically jib that the USPS is a terrible business model not to be followed AND you imply that the regulatory nightmare of postal service delivery is much greater, naturally, than that of what net neutrality currently calls for.

        You then strike out on a completely unsupported tangent that such regulation is… good? That all over the world (incidentally, the ban on traffic throttling by priority is not in existence anywhere else as of yet, though many progressive European countries are soon to follow the US down this corporatist path) have somehow regulated their internet more and thus gained cheaper, better, and faster internet?

        I assume this is in relationship to the many, smaller, population dense nations who can more readily provide 100% of their population with higher connection speeds. I certainly agree that it’s easier to find good broadband in South Korea than in the US. Now, we just have to shrink the US down to the size of SK!

        “Unbundling,” as you put it, is a misnomer. The corporatist system to which you refer in the UK is a system by which effectively nationalized lines are leased at rock bottom prices to politically and economically advantaged megacorporations who then rake in profits from providing service while getting the tax payers to foot the bill for infrastructure upgrades. The only reason it doesn’t become truly nightmarish in the UK is, again, because the geographical area to cover is much smaller than in the US and the population density is higher.

        SO, what you are supporting when you pay lip service to Net Neutrality, as you have here: First, an FCC chairman from a major telecom, and his staff, also from major telecoms and lobbyist groups for those telecoms, getting together to write rules that are going to restrict competition for their parent corporation. If you like Ting, Republic Wireless, or any other smaller players in the telecom world: prepare to see them die. Not only will the ISP of tomorrow still be a Comcast dominated world, but you can expect them to profit immensely from this coup.

        You believe that an executive from a major corporation is going to join the FCC and make rules for the benefit of John Q. Public instead of the people who paid his salary and will pay him huge perks later for cooperating? This is the height of naivete and the kind of grade school thinking that has brought our national infrastructure to it’s knees. Stop begging the corporatist government to help end corporatism. It does not work. It only makes things worse.

          1. I guess this is supposed to be an insult, but I have no idea who this person is.

        1. You keep crying corporatism, but I’m not sure you know what it means. There is a reason why the near-monopoly ISPs are fighting these regulations tooth and nail — they stand to profit handsomely from an unregulated internet, especially given that more-and-more, they are the ones providing the bulk of the content in terms of movie and TV output. All over the country these same ISPs have been paying off regulators and lawmakers to strike down everything and anything that gets in their way of making a bigger profit, including abrogating their responsibility to commitments previously made to obtain favorable terms and kickbacks.

          The campaign for Net Neutrality has been about as grassroots as it comes these days (and yeah, of course there will be corporate winners too) and while I am under no illusions that the regulations will be even close to perfect, they will go some way to redressing the balance between independent content providers and the stranglehold the big ISPs have on internet access these days.

          Government is the only tool the public has, as imperfect as it is. Voluntarily throwing it away (as you libertarians would have us do), is tantamount to unconditional surrender to the corporations.

          Regarding the UK unbundling. You do realize that British Telecom, the company that owns over 90% of the landlines in the UK, is the biggest corporation of them all in the UK ISP market, and without unbundling they would still have a complete stranglehold on the ISP market? With unbundling, companies like Plusnet and TalkTalk (not “megacorporations” by any stretch of the imagination) manage to compete successfully in a marketplace where customers (like my parents) typically have 10 or more ISPs to choose from, and pay around half what I’m paying here in the US for phone and internet service. Yeah, what a disaster /s.

  2. Unfortunately, the FCC’s win on net “neutrality” is a loss for Reason.

        1. Like accepting the 300+ rules that no one in the public is allowed to read. That type of “reasonable” faith? Right?

          Have to pass it to know what’s in it.

          1. Not defending the FCC’s process in the slightest — I’m all for government transparency — but that’s a completely different issue.

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