Is Your ISP Already Violating Net Neutrality Laws?

By Ed Weinberg January 20, 2014

The U.S. Appeals Court struck down the 2011 FCC rules that said all Internet traffic must be treated equally by Internet service providers.  Verizon challenged the regulations since the FCC was not given Congressional authority to regulate the Internet. Congress had hearings and debated giving the FCC the authority to regulate the Internet, then did not pass a bill. There have been eight bills introduced to Congress between 2006 and 2012 involving net neutrality, and the only one that passed had the net neutrality provisions removed from the bill. The FCC seized that power, and, the court found in favor of Verizon.

ISPs, like Verizon, who brought the suit, fear the other shoe dropping. The Administration has hinted that the next step for the FCC, if its rule on “net neutrality” had not been struck down, would be to declare your ISP is violating net neutrality by bundling telephone and TV with Internet. To understand why, you need to know how modern telephone and television are delivered through your ISP.

You probably get your television and your phone through your ISP, but many people are disconnecting TV from their cable company, and choosing Hulu Plus, Amazon, torrents, or any number of other companies who can provide TV shows. Today, your ISP probably has the most content from a single source. The government wants to accelerate this process, while your ISP wants to sell you all three services, since they make much of their revenue through TV sales and it keeps customers loyal.

How can the government say that your ISP might be violating net neutrality? While they are not degrading competitor’s services, they do have “ISP only” lanes on their “information superhighway.” Your ISP has reserved bandwidth that you can only use for their TV and telephone services. If you receive TV or phone from any other provider, it uses your “Internet” bandwidth. Even if you don't pay for television or telephone, you can't use that reserved bandwidth for your chosen TV or telephone provider. If you want to use Vonage, Skype, WebRTC, or any other voice/video over Internet services, it comes out of your “Internet” bandwidth.

As more people move to other television services and those other services mature, you can expect your ISP to become more competitive with their TV rates, and more expensive for the “last mile” delivery of Internet. Right now, TV and telephone are providing revenue to keep your Internet low. Good thing or bad thing? Without that revenue, your ISP might not be building out and improving their infrastructure, or would be charging more for your Internet service. 

Edited by Stefania Viscusi
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