The Washington D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals recently decided to uphold the FCC’s Net Neutrality rules. AT&T’s General Counsel, David McAtee, said “we have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court, and we look forward to participating in that appeal.”
The Federal Communications Commission net neutrality rules require that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – mainly telephone and large cable companies – treat all legal content equally. Broadband providers will not be allowed to:
- Block access to legal content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
- Throttle, impair, or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
- Create paid “fast lanes” or prioritization of some internet traffic over other lawful traffic, and ISPs will not be allowed to prioritize content and services of their affiliates.
Many consumers and tech firms favor these regulations. The digital industry (Netflix, Amazon, Facebook, Google/YouTube, and others) that uses the internet to deliver their services to consumers see it as a win. Telecom providers and ISPs have denounced the FCC for relying on antiquated rules that are nearly 100 years old. CTIA, the wireless industry trade group, believes that this ruling will depress or delay investments in internet infrastructure.
Opponents also fear over-reach of regulators. For example, new regulations proposed by the FCC earlier this year would limit an ISPs’ ability to collect user data and share it with advertisers or other third parties. AT&T, Comcast and Verizon would have to ask users to consent or “opt-in” before their data, such as which sites they visit and personal information, can be used. The opt-in rule could lead to low user participation rates, which would limit the value of advertising. Meanwhile, Google, Facebook, YouTube and other content providers, which are subject to Federal Trade Commission rather than FCC regulations, are able to use subscribers’ data more liberally.
The consequences are difficult to predict for enterprises. If ISPs do reduce their infrastructure investments and the internet grinds to slower speeds, everyone will lose. In addition, prioritization for internet services may have offered benefits to enterprises with mission critical applications that could have paid for fast lanes. On the other hand, net-neutrality helps new businesses with limited budgets that couldn’t afford to pay for fast lanes. Net-neutrality will produce winners and losers. Before taking a stand, each organization should carefully examine the impact of the rules on its operations.Tags: Net Neutrality