By a narrow 3-2 margin, the FCC has just passed a landmark net neutrality proposal spearheaded by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. The proposal, for the first time will make a distinction between broadbrand Internet (the service you get from Comcast and Time Warner), and wireless (services provided by the likes of Verizon & AT&T).
On the broadband side, all internet traffic routed over these networks must be treated equally. So whether you’re streaming content from the soon-to-be-owned-by-Comcast USA Network, YouTube, or some obscure blog about ducks, in theory, it will all be delivered to you with the same quality and speed. The same, however, cannot be said for visiting those sites on your EVO 4G.
A key issue sure to raise the feathers of privacy hawks everywhere, deals with the lack of net neutrality rules imposed on wireless Internet providers. This is largely due to the fact that under current law, the FCC doesn’t officially have the authority to police wireless providers. Once set into law, Verizon or AT&T would be allowed to strike deals with companies to pay a premium to ensure their content was more efficiently delivered over their networks. They would also be allowed to block services, so long as those services don’t compete with services they also provide. Services like Skype cannot be blocked under these new rules, but everyone’s favorite social network could.
However, consumers will have the ability to file anti-competitiveness complaints about wireless providers for free and have those complaints heard by a “Rocket Docket” that makes a decision within 130 days. The nature of the first complaint rulings could determine how much wireless providers can restrict your access to content.
There are arguments on both sides of the aisle regarding fairness and ensuring a competitive eco-system versus the need for companies to protect their billion dollar investments and to reap the profits from these investments. As with most legislative endeavors these days, this proposal attempts to provide a compromise to all parties involved (consumers, content/service creators, and ISPs). It is too early to predict what effects this will have on America’s wired landscape, but either way, it will never look the same again.