FCC Chairman Under Bipartisan Fire for Net Neutrality Plan
By Seth Fitzgerald / CIO Today. Updated May 20, 2014.
Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler is facing criticism from the House of Representatives over the FCC's Net neutrality plan that would create Internet fast lanes. Representatives on both sides of the political spectrum are critiquing Wheeler's proposal and many of their concerns echo the concerns raised by organizations and individual citizens.
Net neutrality, the idea that all Internet traffic should be treated equally by Internet service providers (ISPs), has been a sore spot in the electronics industry for several years. In the past, the FCC attempted to introduce a set of Net neutrality laws that would help to prevent ISPs from obstructing Internet traffic, however an appeals court struck down those rules.
Without the open Internet laws to protect the industry, the FCC has been forced to come up with a new plan that many people fear will hurt the Internet. The proposal, at a bare minimum, would alter the way that the telecommunications industry is treated by the government by adding new regulations. Members of the Republican party are not in favor of additional regulations, while some Democrats contend that the proposal does not go far enough.
Blocking legal content on the Internet is not currently allowed nor will it be allowed if Wheeler's plan is ultimately accepted by the FCC, but it will be possible for Internet traffic to travel at different speeds. Wheeler's plan allows for paid prioritization which means that if a content provider wants its content to reach subscribers faster, it can pay ISPs extra.
The action of paying extra is something that House Republicans have no issue with, but Democrats view as a major issue that could lead to a broken Internet system in the United States. "Paid prioritization divides the Internet into haves and have-nots, and it will entrench the big companies at the expense of start-ups," said Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.).
Wheeler has consistently tried to phrase his response to these concerns in a way that suggests the Internet will remain equal even though his proposal includes language that does make it possible for the creation of fast and slow lanes.
Apple Jumps On Board
Until a new set of rules is put in place by the FCC, deals between Internet content providers and ISPs are already allowed so that preferential treatment can be set up. A deal between Netflix and Comcast is one of the best examples of these types of agreements. And it is now being reported that Apple will pay ISPs for direction connections to a content delivery network (CDN) that it is creating.
Dan Rayburn, a long-time member of the CDN industry, wrote about Apple's plans on his blog Tuesday. According to Rayburn, Apple is building its own CDN for software downloads and it will make special deals with "some of the largest ISPs in the U.S." so that content is delivered as fast as possible.
If an alternative proposal is accepted by the FCC -- such as the reclassification of broadband as a utility, which could give the FCC more control over ISPs and maybe help the FCC preserve an open Internet -- then deals between ISPs and content providers will not be as easy to set up.