FCC Revives Net Neutrality

John Lister's picture

The FCC has restored net neutrality rules, theoretically making it harder for broadband providers to favor traffic speed on some sites or services over others. But the introduction of 5G technology could be a glitch in the plan.

Net neutrality is a longstanding topic of debate for the FCC with policy largely following partisan politics. Rules were last introduced in 2015 and then repealed in 2017. (Source: theverge.com)

The general principle of net neutrality is that all Internet traffic (except for inherently illegal content) should be treated equally by carriers. That means, for example, that a carrier shouldn't be able to charge extra for customers to visit a site (such as Netflix), or to slow down their connection when they use a particular technology.

Broadband Reclassified

In administrative terms, what matters is how the FCC applies the Communications Act of 1934. Since 2017, broadband has been classed as merely an information service, with limited scope for FCC regulation.

The FCC has now reclassified it as a communications service under Title II of the Communications Act. That means it's treated the same way as phone services, allowing for net neutrality rules.

The debate has largely followed similar lines: critics say regulation stifles competition and innovation while supporters say net neutrality creates a fair playing field for the best sites and services to prevail. There's also a wider political element to the debate with some arguing that states should set their own rules (or choose not to have them.)

Mobile May Differ

One potential limitation to the latest implementation of net neutrality is if and how the rules apply to 5G mobile broadband. Some carriers offer faster speeds to particular services such as telemedicine. They say it's necessary for such services to work well, but it appears in principle to breach net neutrality. (Source: washingtonpost.com)

Another headache is carriers who offer data plans with a monthly usage limit but have deals to exclude particular streaming services. They promote those as a benefit to consumers, but critics argue that effectively means accessing rival services costs more in data charges.

What's Your Opinion?

Do you welcome the return of net neutrality rules? Do they need rewriting for the tech landscape of 2024? Should this be a state issue instead?

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Comments

Chief's picture

Nothing is neutral, especially when the government puts its hand on the scale.