Later this month, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will vote on a proposal to reclassify the Internet as a utility and critical to the functioning of the nation, in turn, maintaining “net neutrality.” So what does that all mean?
The proposal by FCC Chairman, Tom Wheeler, means that Internet providers must allow data to move across their networks without interference. The idea has been the subject of heavy lobbying and millions of dollars in advertising in the past year, according to a recent AP story.
The proposed rules attempt to erase any legal uncertainty by reclassifying the Internet as a telecommunications service and regulating it under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. The plan would apply to both wired and wireless services provided by companies like Comcast and T-Mobile.
Under the proposal, Internet providers can’t charge any business a premium to insure that they have access to the web, can’t throttle service and can’t block access to legal websites.
Similarly, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, who invented the Internet, is also encouraging the adoption of net neutrality rules in the EU. "My vision was that anyone, anywhere in the world could share knowledge and ideas without needing to buy a license or ask permission from myself or any CEO, government department or committee," says Berners-Lee. The web was deliberately built as a "neutral, creative and collaborative space," and he wants to see it continue as such.
Internet Service Providers (ISP) have dreaded the application of Title II, which has more than 100 pages of text outlining dos and don'ts and would give the FCC immense regulatory power, according to a USA TODAY report. Proponents say stringent rules are needed to regulate ISPs since the cable industry is poised for consolidation and many consumers contend with local monopolies in broadband Internet service.
The FCC will not regulate pricing and will impose no tariffs or rules that would require unbundling of services for consumers.
"It is counterproductive because heavy regulation of the Internet will create uncertainty and chill investment among the many players — not just Internet service providers — that now will need to consider FCC rules before launching new services," said Michael Glover, Verizon senior vice president and deputy general counsel.
Here’s another look at the discussion:
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
Do you think Internet access should be classified as a utility and face regulation? Are ISPs crying “Wolf” or will it stagnate investments? Should ISPs be able to continue to charge a premium rate to businesses for guaranteed access? Tell us what you think by leaving your comments below.