Why You Should Be Worried About Net Neutrality

Reports coming in this week are suggesting that the Federal Communications Commission means to put an effective end to the Open Internet with its new rules, and despite reassurances from Chairman Tom Wheeler, things still aren’t looking up.

Wheeler released a statement Thursday saying the FCC is still committed to net neutrality rules, in contradiction to reports from several newspapers claiming the FCC is about to allow Internet service providers to create “fast lanes” of better, faster speeds that companies can pay to access. Wheeler wrote that the reports about the new FCC rules are “flat out wrong,” as reported by GamePolitics.com.

“There are reports that the FCC is gutting the Open Internet rule,” Wheeler said in his statement. “They are flat out wrong. Tomorrow we will circulate to the Commission a new Open Internet proposal that will restore the concepts of net neutrality consistent with the court’s ruling in January. There is no ‘turnaround in policy.’ The same rules will apply to all Internet content. As with the original Open Internet rules, and consistent with the court’s decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted.”

Notice that the statement doesn’t quite contradict reports that came out Wednesday suggesting the FCC would allow the creation of Internet “fast lanes” for certain companies, but would leave websites on equal footing with one another — an apparent move to quiet net neutrality advocates but still a step toward the future of an Internet controlled by ISPs.

The whole thing is shady, especially given the past of both the FCC and Wheeler, who formerly worked as a lobbyist and lawyer for telecom companies in Washington for nearly 40 years. Ross Lincoln, senior editor of comics and cosplay at The Escapist, has tackled the situation in a ton of depth and detail on GameFront, and did so again for The Escapist in his new piece, “The FCC Net Neutrality Sellout: A Wakeup Call and a Slap in the Face.” He also spoke with representatives from the Electronic Frontier Foundation to get their take on the changes and what it’ll mean for the Internet in general and gaming in particular.

Taking aim at Wheeler’s own statement, Ross’s story tackles the fact that even the language used to supposedly assuage fears that the FCC is about to nuke net neutrality is suspect:

“Further, what details Wheeler did provide in that statement are very troubling. For instance:

“‘That all ISPs must transparently disclose to their subscribers and users all relevant information as to the policies that govern their network;
‘That no legal content may be blocked; and
‘That ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.’

“These vague platitudes only raise more questions than answers. For example, no information is provided as to just how the agency plans to monitor what is and what isn’t “unreasonable,” a concern shared by April Glaser of the Electronic Frontier Foundation. “[W]e have no idea how ‘commercially unreasonable’ will be treated, and we don’t trust vague language,” she told The Escapist. “We don’t anticipate that the FCC will act in the best interests of the public with this language when the final proposals are released in May, because someone could argue that it’s commercially reasonable to charge Google or Netflix more money to reach the subscriber because they take a lot of power to get these heavy services, especially video services, to consumers. But that kind of discrimination is, again, just disastrous to the innovative fabric of the Internet.”

The rest of the piece is a great look at the history of the FCC on net neutrality and what the potential fallout from the FCC’s new rules, which it will publish in May to allow for public comment, will mean for the Internet and all of us. It’s a highly recommended read, and you can find it here.


Phil Hornshaw is senior editor at GameFront. Read more of his work here, and follow him and GameFront on Twitter: @philhornshaw and @gamefrontcom.

Join the Conversation   

* required field

By submitting a comment here you grant GameFront a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate or irrelevant comments will be removed at an admin's discretion.

10 Comments on Why You Should Be Worried About Net Neutrality

lol

On April 25, 2014 at 9:33 am

I’m hoping this passes, it will filter out people who think that the internet isn’t a luxury.

lol

On April 25, 2014 at 9:38 am

I’m hoping this doesn’t pass, it will filter out people who think that freedom of information is a luxury.

Egg

On April 25, 2014 at 9:59 am

Don’t feed the troll.

Evernessince

On April 27, 2014 at 9:24 pm

Hey Phil, do you think you can do something about lol? He’s been trolling these threads for ages.

Guest

On April 28, 2014 at 12:31 am

@Evernessince – pretty sure your calls will fall on deaf ears, people have been complaining about his transparent attention-seeking devils advocacy for years and nothing’s been done about it. Besides, all that would happen is he (or she) would just start using a different name, and that’s assuming he is even using an account right now instead of just typing a name into the box like I’m doing now. Better we know who he is at least when the alternative is like the little prat who keeps trolling Mass Effect 3 articles with the same obnoxious, multi-paragraph posts defending Bioware and insulting fans while trying to pass himself off as different people each time.

That’s what probably needs to happen, here – Gamefront needs to get rid of, or at least drastically reduce, the system which allows people to post without being a member of the site. It wouldn’t stop trolls but it would at least curtail them and make it easier to track them, plus I have a feeling that some of the trolls wouldn’t bother posting if they didn’t have to register first or kept getting their accounts banned.

Ron Whitaker

On April 28, 2014 at 7:30 am

A complete revamp of the comments system is something we’re definitely looking into. We want to make that happen soon.

rich

On May 2, 2014 at 5:07 am

I’m a little confused over this issue and so hoping someone can enlighten me. As I can understand it and have seen from recent reports, some ips’s have been slowing down certain traffic eg.Netflix. When the owners of this traffic then paid extra to the isp the speed was brought back up to a high standard. Is this not what most postal services do already? I know if i send a letter I put a stamp on it, if I send a parcel I put a larger stamp and pay more as the parcel is using up more of the postal network. Can someone explain how this is different as I just don’t get it at the moment.

Ron Whitaker

On May 2, 2014 at 6:42 am

@Rich – The concern is that an ISP, say Comcast, would prioritize their in-house video service over a service like Netflix. Doing so would mean that no matter which service you preferred, the Comcast service would always be better. Comcast can then say to Netflix, “Hey, want to get the same service speeds as our streaming offering? Here’s what it will cost you.” Either Netflix ponies up the cash, or it loses customers to Comcast’s service.

In a similar vein, what if a gaming site like GameFront could pay Comcast for our pages to load three times faster than IGN’s? While that might not drive off a lot of traffic, it could definitely have an impact.

Under Net Neutrality rules, these types of preferential treatment for traffic would be illegal. Under this new system, it’s perfectly fine.

Phil Hornshaw

On May 2, 2014 at 9:03 am

@Rich

I see where you’re coming from, but like Ron said, there are differences, and it’s not quite a perfect analogy. When you pay the post office for faster delivery, you’re paying for an increase in labor. They can deliver everything for one price, or you can rush it, which means people work harder, or other costs like fuel are incurred (throwing your letter on a plane as opposed to a truck, for example).

There’s no increase in cost for an ISP. The tubes are there, the data gets sent, and it’s not like, in order to increase speed, they have to send more guys down to throw coal into the furnace. It’s an arbitrary speed increase in order to get money out of content providers, and little else. And it carries with it lots of competition and free speech penalties, potentially. When Comcast is arbitrarily throwing the switches over content, it has all the control. The post office doesn’t know what’s IN the letter — they’re not delivering some people’s mail faster and some slower based on the content of the message. But ISPs would do exactly that, and it’s all kinds of problematic.