Posted on April 25, 2014, Phil Hornshaw 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.