FCC’s radical new net neutrality proposal will kill internet fast lanes

5 Feb 2015

Is it the beginning of the end of the debate on net neutrality or the end of the beginning? FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed new rules that ban carriers in the US from interfering with subscribers’ traffic.

Wheeler has also decided to apply net neutrality rules to wireless carriers for the first time.

The principle of net neutrality is that all packets of data – from email to videos and photos – are treated equally by network carriers at all times.

Effectively Wheeler is moving to end the cycle of allegations whereby over the top internet services like Netflix complained that unless they paid preferential rates to carriers their users would suffer lower quality streaming.

In essence he is steering clear of a two-tier internet where quality connectivity is only available to those who have the means to pay higher to access so-called internet “fast lanes.”

Wheeler proposed new “enforceable rules to preserve and protect the open internet as a place for innovation and free expression.”

The proposed rules have been drafted in such a way as to withstand future challenge.

However, some carriers are already sabre-rattling and Verizon has indicated it may begin legal action.

No blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritisation

Wheeler pointed out that 2010’s open internet had limited rules on mobile broadband, while today 55pc of all internet traffic is now carried over wireless networks.

He proposes to protect consumers no matter how they access the internet, whether on PC or on their mobile devices.

Wheeler is proposing what he calls Bright Line Rules to ban practices that are known to harm the open internet: no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritisation.

At the same time he is creating a structure for “reasonable network management” that recognises the need for ISPs and mobile telcos to manage the technical and engineering aspects of their networks.

“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,” Wheeler said in an op-ed on Wired.

Fast lanes image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years