Saturday, September 24, 2011

Net Neutrality Rules Published, Lawsuits Soon to Follow

Wired - The FCC has finally officially published long-delayed rules prohibiting cable, DSL and wireless internet companies from blocking websites and requiring them to disclose how they slow down or throttle their networks.

The so-called Net Neutrality rules (.pdf), passed along party lines in late December last year in a 3-2 vote, were published in the Federal Register Friday and will go into effect on November 20.
The basic outlines of the rules, which differentiate between fixed broadband (e.g. cable, fiber and DSL) and mobile broadband (the connection to smartphones and mobile hotspot devices):
The Commission adopts three basic protections that are grounded in broadly accepted Internet norms, as well as our own prior decisions.

-First, transparency: fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of their broadband services.

-Second, no blocking: fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services.

-Third, no unreasonable discrimination: fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.
One of the more contentious debates, left unresolved to either side’s liking, is whether wireless companies should be forced to play by the same fairness rules as cable and DSL internet providers do. Online activists argue that in absence of such rules, wireless carriers will throttle innovative services — while the carriers maintain that their networks are more congested and that competition will prevent any unfair behavior on their part.               More