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Does Net Neutrality Make a Difference to Your Business?

by | Jan 20, 2011 | Human Interest

At the end of December, the FCC voted to adopt the “Net Neutrality Rules”, beginning the process of giving some regulation to how the Internet works in the United States. While this is expected to be debated in Congress as to its appropriateness and may be overturned, it is important to understand exactly what it is and how it’s going to impact businesses across the county.

What Exactly is Net Neutrality?

Net Neutrality is primarily aimed at Internet Service Providers (ISP’s) in order to keep the Internet “free and open”. PC Magazine published a great article about what the overarching rules for ISP’s is:

…the FCC did provide an overview of what’s included in the order and it breaks down to three high-level rules: transparency; no blocking; and no unreasonable discrimination.

Transparency: The transparency requirement basically requires broadband providers – fixed and wireless – to be more transparent about their activities. They need to be upfront about how they manage their networks, how well (or poorly) their networks perform, as well as details about their plan options and pricing.

No Blocking: The rules differ slightly on this for fixed versus wireless. Fixed providers cannot block lawful content, apps, services, or “non-harmful” devices, or charge providers of these services for delivering traffic to and from their networks. Wireless providers, meanwhile, cannot block access to lawful Web sites or block apps that compete with their own voice or video telephony services. It does not apply to mobile broadband app stores.

No unreasonable discrimination: Under the FCC rules, ISPs can manage their networks, but it can’t be “unreasonable” or discriminate against specific applications. In other words, Comcast could slow down its entire network to handle an influx of users, but it could not cut off a specific, bandwidth-hungry service – like BitTorrent or Netflix or Hulu.

Why All The Fuss?

It seems that Net Neutrality is aimed at preventing abuse of the power ISP’s have over the Internet and keep it open and free as it currently stands. Some commentators see this as the slippery slope to censorship of the Internet. While this isn’t currently a risk, it is worth keeping your eyes on this topic, especially with the FTC’s consideration of the Do Not Track policy.

Additionally, Ray Willington at HotHardWare.com points out, “But there’s a loophole here. ISPs can accept paid prioritization, with select outfits being able to pay for selectively faster access to an ISP’s customer base.

If this is something that stirs a passion in you, make sure you communicate with you Congressperson about your thoughts.

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