Following a federal court ruling earlier this year, the FCC is once again proposing newly revised rules on net neutrality. How might the proposed rules affect you?
Back in January, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the FCC does not have the authority to prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from selectively slowing down or blocking Web traffic. The Internet had been "neutral" before this ruling, meaning ISPs could not slow traffic down based on content. Now they can.
What could the loss of net neutrality mean to you? Potentially, a lot. Here are three major concerns:
- It might cost you money. Web services might have to pay a toll you get to you, and they're likely to pass it along to you.
- It might cost you your job. And not only if you work for a startup Web content provider. Of course, startups will be hardest hit: Tolls will be one added cost, one more barrier to innovation, another threat to a startup's survival. But any investment loss in the area of wireless and wireline broadband will cost jobs. A 10-percent drop in investments could cost the United States 502,000 jobs, according to a 2010 study released by New York Law School's Advanced Communications Law & Policy Institute.
- It might cost you freedom. Web services that can't pay an ISP's toll will suffer from slower service. If it's too slow, you probably won't use it. Big services (with big money) will have better access to you. Little services will have worse access. This will drown out small voices, minority opinions. You'll see what big business wants you to see.
What's the FCC Doing About It?
The FCC is trying to address these concerns, but its hands are tied because of the way the Telecommunications Act of 1996 was written. If the FCC had more power, it could bring back net neutrality. These are the FCC's proposed rules right now:
- Transparency: All ISPs must transparently disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information as to the policies that govern their network.
- No Blocking: Web content that's legal may not be blocked.
- No Unreasonable Discrimination: ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.
So What Can You Do?
If you don't think the FCC's proposed rules are good enough, you can write to your Congressmember and try to get the laws changed to give the FCC the authority to enforce net neutrality. Better yet, set up a meeting and go talk with a Congressional staff member.
The FCC is set to vote May 15 on whether to move forward with its net neutrality proposal, so that would be another place to make your views known. Because of heightened interest, the FCC has taken the unusual step of setting up an email address where you can submit your comments now: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- FCC's new net neutrality proposal: What do we really know? (PC World)
- FCC's Net Neutrality Rules Struck Down by D.C. Circuit (FindLaw's Courtside)
- FCC to Rewrite Net Neutrality Rules Following D.C. Circuit Ruling (FindLaw's D.C. Circuit Blog)
- What Is Net Neutrality? How the D.C. Circuit Ruling May Affect You (FindLaw's Decided)