NET NEUTRALITY AT THE CROSSROADS Series offers a look into what might go down as the most important week in the life of the Internet. Before discussing the regulatory history and decision options before the Federal Communications Commission [FCC] decision, this introductory article offers a summary of Net Neutrality for readers new to the topic. Numerous detailed articles can be found online.
Net Neutrality is the one of the defining principles behind the Internet as we know it today. Whether or not you’ve taken the time to get to know this ubiquitous friend, its days upon the earth might be fast coming to an end if Federal Communications Commission [FCC] Chairman Tom Wheeler is successful in his campaign to introduce landmark changes to the regulatory framework that governs the world wide web.
WHAT IS NET NEUTRALITY?
Ironically, former AT&T CEO Ed Whitacre mockingly stated during his parting speech,
“I’m not even sure what Net Neutrality means.”
In short, Net Neutrality is the idea that all traffic on the Internet is treated equally. Backbone operations of the information highway do not discriminate against services, slowing some content, while accelerating others. Net Neutrality is commonly referred to as a requisite feature of a democratized Internet, where individuals and institutions, start-ups and multinational conglomerates, under-resourced communications and wealthy political jurisdictions, and other content producers and users have equal ability to exchange information in the network of participate in the electronic.
Net Neutrality has encountered independent content providers such as kennethdprice.com to serve customer requests to its website, assured that its data packets will move across the Internet backbone with the same transmission speed and quality as those delivered by the largest content providers such as Facebook, Twitter, Youtube, and Google.
Essentially, Net Neutrality establishes a policy framework that packets moving through backbone channels of the Internet are not given preferential treatment (to the detriment of other traffic), routed in sub-standard ways, or prevented from reaching their destination.
THE FCC ON NET NEUTRALITY
On December 23, 2010, the FCC released its Open Internet Order [FCC 10-201] to preserve Net Neutrality by articulating three specific mandates:
i. Transparency. Fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network
management practices, performance characteristics, and terms and conditions of their
ii. No blocking. Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications,
services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful
websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony
iii. No unreasonable discrimination. Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably
discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.
FCC 10-201, thus, required Internet Service Providers [ISPs] to convey their approach on a range of issues from handling various protocols to managing network congestion. The FCC further stipulated that ISPs were prohibited from unilaterally denying certain traffic e.g., ooVoo video conferencing, Netflix movie streaming, Dropbox online data storage. The Order likewise prevented ISPs from discriminating against services by moving data through the Internet along lower bandwidth channels or “slow lanes”.
In releasing FCC 10-201, the FCC promulgated a regulatory framework that recognized all data destined for the Internet should be treated equally without regard for the origin.
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