Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Net neutrality rule may not be so neutral

The Federal Communications Commission will vote today on Net neutrality rules. There appears to be a “compromise.” Wireless carriers like AT&T and Verizon look to be exempt from the harshest rules. The objection by promoters of net neutrality fear bandwidth control.

ISP (Internet Service Providers) want the option to control the data pipeline and become the traffic cops of the Internet. Those with muscle (money) can command the green light while the average Internet e-mail checker would be sitting at the yield sign waiting their turn.

Three Democrats and two Republicans sit on the commission. It boils down to cable companies and telephone companies being viewed separately. The FCC claims it will provide consumers, service providers, device makers, and application developers clear rules of the road for the Internet.

Network operators of both fixed and wireless networks will be required to disclose information that will be necessary for them to deploy services. If  network management techniques are used that affect certain applications the ISP must transparently disclose the reason for the requirement.

Both fixed wireline broadband network operators and wireless providers are prohibited from blocking traffic on the Internet. But the stipulations for each type are different.

Wired networks, operators will not be allowed to block any lawful content. Wireless providers are only prohibited from blocking websites that compete with the carrier’s  voice or video services.

Reasonable network management – This blocking rule for wireless and wireline networks also includes allowances to “reasonably manage” their networks during times of congestion.

Fixed broadband providers like cable companies are prohibited from unreasonably discriminating against traffic on their network.

The compromise does not satisfy consumer advocates for Net neutrality. They wanted stricter rules. This compromise could allow broadband providers to impose usage-based charges. ISP customers using more bandwidth would get charged more than customers using less. The FCC will also allow providers to offer special services like better quality for certain applications – for example home security and medical service applications.

Cox Communications in Roanoke already has three tiers of Internet service: Essential at 3 megabits per second download speed for 31.99, Preferred at 12 megabits at 45.99 and Premier at 15 megabits for 59.99 per month.

Clear as mud? There is consensus from consumer advocates that the battle is just beginning.

Posted By Valerie Garner

Categories: Business, Politics

Tags: , , ,


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