Monday, September 21, 2009

FCC Chairman Outlines Stance on Net Neutrality

Tags: fcc, net neutrality

A few weeks ago the FCC came out and declared that they would be supporting the idea of net neutrality. At the time, there weren't any real specifics talked about so many were skeptical of any action being taken.

While no direct action has been taken, the FCC Chairman has published a prepared statement that contains a few details on the finer points of the FCC's stance on net neutrality. It's a rather long statement, but there are some pieces that should be welcomed by proponents of net neutrality.


The fifth principle is one of non-discrimination -- stating that broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications.


Probably the main point behind net neutrality is that internet providers should not be able to manipulate traffic based on its source or content. Whether that means prohibiting the blocking ofcertain content or ensuring no priority is given to specific sources, it sounds like the FCC will take a firm stand against ISPs meddling with the traffic that's going through their pipes. For those thinking this may open a hole for illegal use of the internet, such as filesharing copyrighted materials or warez related downloads - think again. The chairman specifically pointed out that the protections would be for "lawful" content.

The sixth principle is a transparency principle -- stating that providers of broadband Internet access must be transparent about their network management practices.


The chairman was mostly talking about the need to have internet providers let their customers know what is being blocked and why. Specifically, a provider should have to "open its books" with regards to how it regulates traffic.

All in all I like most of what the chairman has said. While over regulation of the internet is a bad thing in my opinion, I think putting some safeguards in place to prevent ISPs from doing too much regulation of their own is a good thing. I don't want an ISP to strike some back alley deal with Blockbuster to give their streaming videos a faster connection through the network while restricting rival NetFlix. That's the kind of thing that could slowly start crippling innovation on the Web.

Still... we'll have to wait and see if the FCC holds true to their word and make sure ISPs place nice.

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