As expected (and reported from various news outlets), today FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed using Title II legislation to help settle the question of net neutrality. The debate over net neutrality – the idea that all packets traveling over the Internet routers, servers, etc. should receive equal treatment, which is how things have generally worked up to now – has been going on for more than a decade, with two primary views. On the one side are those who want this continue, primarily consumer interests along with companies including Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Netflix; on the other side are major Internet Service Providers like Comcast and AT&T.

Proponents argue that the Internet has flourished thanks to net neutrality and an attitude of being free and open. They also point out that these are the rules that have more or less been followed so far, and they have worked well, so the regulation is more of a safeguard to keep the current norm of equal treatment of data in place. Opponents meanwhile have expressed concerns that regulation would hinder their ability and motive to roll out faster broadband service, and others are worried that regulation may open the way to increased taxation and other costs. When President Obama weighed in last year and recommended that the FCC implement “the strongest possible rules” to protect the Internet, today’s eventual recommendation by the FCC was more or less a foregone conclusion.

Wheeler states in his Wired piece, “I am proposing that the FCC use its Title II authority to implement and enforce open internet protections…. I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.” The application of the same rules to mobile broadband is particularly important, as according to the FCC around 55% of online traffic now occurs on smartphones and tablets. While Title II regulation has been applied to the cellphone industry since 1993, mobile data services have up until now been exempt.

As for how Title II will be applied, Wheeler proposes modernizing Title II and tailoring it for the 21st century, at the same time continuing to encourage investment into broadband networks via incentives. The goal is to create a system where the necessary returns continue to exist in order for large communications corporations to construct competitive networks. “For example, there will be no rate regulation, no tariffs, no last-mile unbundling.” Elsewhere Wheeler mentions using a “light touch approach” similar to what has been done in the cellphone industry.

What does this all mean to end users? It’s important to note that net neutrality and Title II regulation alone don’t mean faster speeds for lower prices. I for one would love to see more affordable pricing on broadband, particularly for mobile broadband, but that may or may not happen; Title II for now is about making things “fair” for all parties. What this really means is that a company like Comcast, as an example, cannot prioritize their own content over that of competitors – so on demand streaming of the latest movie from Comcast has the same access to bandwidth as streaming of content from Netflix, Hulu, Amazon, etc. It’s also important that net neutrality remain in place not just on the connections to our homes and businesses, but also on the Internet backbone.

There have been examples of ISPs limiting traffic in the past, so it will be interesting to see how this plays out. BitTorrent trafic was often limited to end users, and this may not change if the traffic is not deemed as "legal content" but it would be hard for an ISP to declare that all traffic of a single protocol is not legal, even if some of it is not. Famous examples of legal BitTorent traffic would be things like Linux distribution networks and World of Warcraft, just to name some examples. Netflix traffic has also been degraded in the past due to the lack of sufficent interconnect bandwidth, with Netflix agreeing to pay last mile ISPs to improve service.

As this is all at the proposal stage right now, we’ll need to wait to see what some of this means in actual practice – and voting will take place on Feb. 26.

Source: FCC

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  • ChackoDeluxe - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    No, it is not Netflix/Hulu etc vs Comcast Verizon.

    The cable company and I have an agreement: 50/5 at $65 month. unlimited data and no throttling of the connection.

    Netflix and I have an agreement: $16 / month unlimited streaming and 1 DVD at a time.

    This isn't a hard concept to grasp. I need each company to provide me with what I agreed to. Nothing more nothing less.

    An ISP that throttles, blocks, gives preference to their streaming service over a 3rd party or double dips by charging ME for bandwidth and then a 3rd party company for the same bandwidth is in violation of our agreement.
    Reply
  • Samus - Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - link

    If anybody is going to lay down anything, it should be fiber. It's the 21st century. For a time in the early 00's, Fiber was actually cheaper to produce than coax because of the price of copper. It's pretty much a wash now, and there is added cost for media converters with fiber to the node, but they would come down in price if fiber was used more, just like cable modems came down in price (and improved in performance) as cable internet became more common.

    Looking forward, coax simply cannot provide gigabit ethernet. Current multichannel/ multistream standards on DOCSIS 3.1 limit it to 600Mbps, which is good, but only for the next decade. Fiber is virtually limitless physically as multiplexers and media converters improve technologically.

    Telco's were given billions in tax credits and incentives in the 90's to run fiber in major metro areas, but most of it is lost and unused now because of bad management and merger confusion (purchasing Ameritech, SBC Global, etc) when AT&T purchased companies and halted ongoing projects. Cogent recently purchased decade old remnants of SBC's network here in Chicago for pennies on the dollar for what it cost to roll out, all the the loss of tax payers. But at least somebody is doing something with it...the problem is, Cogent is a corporate ISP with starting prices in the $400 range for 100Mbps internet.

    It's just a mess, because it wasn't regulated.

    Look what happened to the banks when Clinton deregulated them in 1998-1999. These big companies can be reckless just like Wall Street when it comes to lack of federal oversight, because they're so big, when the do fail, we need them and have no choice but to bail them out.

    It happened with the banks, it happened with the airlines, and it will happen with the telco's unless we regulate them. But because of the anti-big-government mentality of people, the United States government isn't "allowed" to do what most other governments do: built out the network infrastructure and license it to service providers at utilities...where the consumers best interest is in mind; ie, high speed and reliability. The flip side is "less security" ie spying that creates paranoia for the tin-hat wearers when their pipe is owned by the government. It doesn't matter who owns it, it matters who OPERATES it.
    Reply
  • Murloc - Thursday, February 5, 2015 - link

    given that the US have been spying international networks too, it absoltuely doesn't matter who owns and operates a network. Reply
  • Shakers - Thursday, February 5, 2015 - link

    The reason they do not want to run broadband everywhere is that your coaxial type loses speed over distance. So they only can go so far from a distribution center and keep the promised speeds. Thats the only reason they really have a range issue with broadband (coax). And the fiber optics are very expensive and fragile so they must be buried. making it expensive. But each company is going to pick a city and they will monopolize with fiber, its a race to secure the most cities with google taking the lead. But i have yet to hear of any solution for total saturation of high speeds Reply
  • barleyguy - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    High speed fiber often isn't buried. It's run on telephone poles with metal straighteners that look like triangles. You'll probably see some of it around if you look. Having fiber on poles is very common around here (Front Range) anyway. Reply
  • wiyosaya - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    Actually, fiber is no longer that fragile as low-loss plastic fiber has been available for some time. All fiber also needs repeaters in the network just like coax does. Reply
  • ArcticFury - Friday, February 6, 2015 - link

    From those whom I have talked to who actually live and breath in the network bandwidth world, last-mile ISPs are increasing speeds slowly and incrementally, while also opening up higher extremely expensive bandwidth tiers. Classic example would be Verizon FiOS. They have the capability to give every connected house 300 mbps, easily, and have been increasing their overall tiers by about 10-25% every 2-3 or so years, all for the same fiber cable that was laid a decade prior. They have the bandwidth, but are just milking their customers for as much as they can get.

    Unless if you live in area with Verizon FiOS VDSL, then you are just completely out of luck. They have publicly stated they will never upgrade them to FiOS Fiber unless forced contractually.

    I hate monopolies.
    Reply
  • Mikemk - Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - link

    If an ISP blocks content altogether, for example, suddenly blocking port 6667 (IRC), would such behavior still be permitted? Reply
  • Mikemk - Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - link

    Suddenlink* Reply
  • Houdani - Wednesday, February 4, 2015 - link

    Not to be lost in this wall of words: I like the subtle change from "net neutrality" to instead call it "open internet protections."

    This simple change in verbiage may change some people's
  • perception that the government is trying to regulate the internet.

  • The people I'm refering to are those whose knowledge of the topic goes only as deep as the headline ticker scrolling across the bottom of their favorite news channel.
  • Reply

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