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Net neutrality: those words have swirled in and out of headlines for the past couple of years, but what do they really mean?
It's a principle, one that means that no legal Internet traffic is prioritized or demoted over other traffic. Internet Service Providers don't filter or promote websites or content by restricting data speeds or access. In times past, the argument was whether ISPs could restrict the amount of bandwidth used by data-hungry services, like Netflix or Bittorrent. Now, it's the reverse question: can they take bribes to give services priority bandwidth.
Today, the FCC announced that it was moving forward with its latest proposed rules, which don't explicitly authorize "fast lane" prioritization, but don't explicitly ban it either. The Internet, as expected, is responding with a wide variety of protests.
The 'Netflix' Lane
Over the past couple of months, video streaming service Netflix has signed bandwidth priority deals with multiple ISPs, including Comcast.
Why? After a court knocked down the FCC's previous neutrality rules, Netflix capitulated. It had no choice. It needs the bandwidth. According to a recent article by Ars Technica, Netflix is by far the largest user of Internet bandwidth, consuming 34.21 percent of all downstream traffic during peak hours. The next closest is YouTube, at 13.19 percent. It's deal with Comcast boosted streaming speeds by nearly 11 percent, reports Time.
Netflix has argued on its blog that the deals are necessary, because ISPs were slowing down their traffic by routing it through third-parties. In short, the lack of net neutrality rules forced them to cut a deal to keep the videos playing.
In a split 3-2 vote, the FCC today voted to move forward with their not neutral neutrality rules, which prohibit blocking or slowing down content, but do not prohibit Netflix-like fast lanes, reports The New York Times.
Of course, much like adding carpool and toll lanes to a freeway congests the remaining normal lanes, creating priority pipelines for Internet bandwidth has the prohibited effect by default. And while Netflix has the money to pay for a fast lane, what about startups and nonprofits?
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler pointed out that this is a mere proposal, and that it will be open for comment for the next four months. (Comments can be submitted on the FCC's website through September 10. The proceeding number for the Net Neutrality proposal is 14-28.)
There were protestors outside of the FCC's meeting. There were even protestors inside the meeting that had to be removed. But the most entertaining protests are happening online, such as this video from FunnyOrDie.com:
A web hosting company, Neocities, also announced a hilarious plan to slow down all traffic coming from FCC computers to 28.8kbs (early-90s dial-up speeds), and made the code public so that other websites can do the same.
And, of course, there have already been more than 20,000 comments since this morning on the FCC's proposed rule.
What are your thoughts on net neutrality? Should fast lanes be banned? Tweet us @FindLawLP.