New Net Neutrality Rules Now Inevitable

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It now seems a virtual certainty that new network neutrality rules will be created by the Federal Communications Commission. The only issue is how stringent and extensive those rules will be, and how far they might go.

And the rules could go quite far, indeed.

Is the Federal Communications Commission seriously looking at Title II common carrier rules as part of its open Internet proceeding? Judging by its language, common carrier regulation of Internet access is not off the table, by any means.

“Title II is very much on the table,” according to Julie Veach, chief of the FCC’s Wireline Competition Bureau.

That might not mean Title II is inevitable. But lots of observers would bet something Internet service providers do not prefer is coming.

The constellation of forces just is stacked up that way. When debating parties talk about preserving innovation in the Internet ecosystem, people refer to app provider innovation. For some, limiting ISP innovation is necessary to promote app innovation.

ISPs can, and have, argue that access services also should be able to innovate. But network neutrality proponents dismiss such innovation as antithetical to a free and open Internet.

Some observers would argue it does not matter whether that statement, and the interpretation of that statement, is actually totally correct.

At this point, it seems those in favor of strong forms of network neutrality have won the policy debate.

Actual regulation of Internet access services as common carrier services might not be forthcoming. But strong network neutrality rules that cover both fixed and mobile networks seem highly likely.

The balance of political forces on the present FCC, some think, could actually ensure that stronger regulations are possible.

If the two Democrat commissioners are in favor of net neutrality, while the two Republicans are opposed, and will not yield in their opposition, the Chairman and the two Democrat commissioners will set the rules.

Unless something changes, that virtually guarantees the only impossible outcome is a rejection of network neutrality rules. There will be new rules. The only issue is how stringent they will be.

Less ISP packaging freedom is on the way. At a minimum, best effort access will be the only way Internet access can be sold to consumers. There will be no way to create content delivery network services that stretch all the way to the end user location or devices.

What other rules might be established is where the uncertainty lies. Might it become impossible for ISPs to offer no incremental charge access to some apps, and not others?

Might the equivalent of toll-free calling also be forbidden? Nobody knows yet. The only certainty is that new net neutrality regulations will be created.


Edited by Maurice Nagle
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Contributing Editor

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