The Federal Communications Commission continues to consider proposed rules this week that would change the way broadband providers are able to handle traffic moving across their networks.
The FCC first enacted regulations on net neutrality – the concept of treating all Internet packets equally – back in 2010, barring Internet service providers from blocking or unreasonably discriminating against any type of Web traffic. However, a federal court struck those rules down earlier this year. Now FCC chairman Tom Wheeler is working to create new requirements that will be capable of surviving future legal challenges.
The proposal the commission is currently considering would ban providers from intentionally blocking or slowing down traffic to specific websites, but create the possibility for sites to pay for special access to faster service for their clients, essentially creating a tiered system. The proposed regulations have caused backlash amongst proponents of net neutrality, and the agency received a record 3.7 million public comments on the issue, many of them against paid prioritization.
“The U.S. government should ensure that entrepreneurs do not face arbitrary roadblocks that limit their potential to build products and services on the Internet,” National Venture Capital Association President Bobby Franklin said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal. “If the FCC were to allow this, it would create a competitive advantage for well-established companies while disadvantaging entrepreneurs.”
FCC considering changing definition of broadband
Julie Veach, chief of the FCC’s Wireline Bureau, expressed interest in an agency blog post in the concepts proposed by educational and library groups that would create a new Internet reasonableness standard to ban fast-lane deals with broadband providers. A large group of net neutrality supporters have called on the commission to reclassify broadband Internet access as a public utility under telecommunications law, allowing it to be subject to greater regulations.
In an interview with NextGov, senior vice president of the non-profit public interest group Public Knowledge Harold Feld said he believes it’s a good sign that the FCC is seriously considering proposals that at least rely partially on reclassification, as it shows the agency’s seriousness in combating fast-lanes. However, in a speech last week, Wheeler emphasized his preference to avoid reclassification in favor of encouraging greater competition within the industry which he believes will lessen the need for regulation.