It wasn’t that long ago when Net Neutrality was the hottest topic on the web. It’s the principle that says that broadband and Internet service providers should treat all Internet traffic the same, regardless of its source. The debate is controversial and complicated. The Federal Communications Commission has been in the middle of it, as it has outlined loose net neutrality guidelines in the past. But according to The Wall Street Journal, the FCC is about to propose definitive rules that could have major repercussions for the entire web.
Net neutrality is an incredibly important issue, but it’s hard to know what to pay attention to when people throw around jargon like “common carriers” and “reclassification.” It doesn’t help that people who tend to be united in their reaction — everyone from techno-libertarians to VCs – seem divided about the gutting of the FCC’s net neutrality rules this week.
Most business executives likely have never come across the concept. Yet despite its limited reach to a small audience of policy wonks, President Obama made it a campaign issue in 2008, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is determined to make it the law, and industry analysts are concerned that its passage would undermine investment by Internet service providers (ISPs). A recent pact on the subject between Google and Verizon — the largest representatives on both sides of the debate — made the covers of the nation's major newspapers this week. What's the fuss over this thing called "net neutrality"?
Google and Verizon announced a joint proposal on Monday that would allow ISPs to offer premium content bundles over an unspecified global network — an unexpected gambit that would seem to call for separate and unequal internets. The two companies say the guidelines would ensure that no internet traffic of any kind is prioritized over any other kind (with the exception of viruses, spam and the like).
Google and Verizon, two leading players in Internet service and content, are nearing an agreement that could allow Verizon to speed some online content to Internet users more quickly if the content’s creators are willing to pay for the privilege. The charges could be paid by companies, like YouTube, owned by Google, for example, to Verizon, one of the nation’s leading Internet service providers, to ensure that its content received priority as it made its way to consumers. The agreement could eventually lead to higher charges for Internet users.
The head of the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday outlined a proposal for regulating the Internet that he described as a "third way," or middle ground between "heavy-handed" regulation and a do-nothing approach that could hurt competition and leave consumers unprotected.
According to a number of anonymous sources in today's Washington Post, the Federal Communications Commission is expected not to pursue a change in the regulatory classification of broadband Internet service. This is basically good news—even more so because the reported reasoning behind Genachowski's decision is, in fact, fairly sound.
A federal appeals court ruled Tuesday that the Federal Communications Commission exceeded its authority when it sanctioned Comcast Corp. in 2008 for deliberately slowing Internet traffic for some users. The unanimous decision is a blow to the FCC, which argued it had authority to police Internet providers and prevent them from blocking or slowing subscribers' Internet traffic. The victory is likely to spark efforts by the FCC and Congress to impose new rules on Comcast and other Internet providers. Major Internet providers will likely oppose such moves, particularly any effort by the FCC to apply rules to their Web services that were originally enacted to promote more competition in the land-line phone industry.
Google Inc., putting more pressure on cable and phone companies, said it plans to begin offering ultrafast Internet services to consumers in a small number of U.S. cities. Under the plan, the Internet search giant will take its biggest step into supplying Web connections rather than the services that run atop them. Google said it will build and test a few fiber-optic networks that reach homes, aiming to serve 50,000 to 500,000 people. Google executives said the move was designed to accelerate the deployment of faster networks and show off the sort of services that high-speed connections can enable, such as rapid video downloads.
Remember the Great Sling Spat? A year ago, Sling Media, a subsidiary of EchoStar, introduced a nifty application for the Apple iPhone that allowed users with a Slingbox at home to watch and control their home television signal from their handsets. The only problem: AT&T said that such a bandwidth-intensive video service would overwhelm its network, so it limited the application to work only over an iPhone’s Wi-Fi connection. TV lovers and techies worldwide cried out in anguish.
Facebook's begun testing a system that's in vogue at the moment: Using its own users as a data-crunching system. Nothing terribly new there--except that Facebook's using its crowd to actually moderate the rest of the crowd and stamp out the nasty bits, which is a whole new ethically-intriguing level It's called the "Facebook Community Council" and according to the group's motto it exists to "harness the power and intelligence of Facebook users to support us in keeping Facebook a trusted and vibrant community." This all sounds very lofty, very un-dictatorial and much more hippyish, power-to-the-people than Facebook sometimes seems, with moves like its blanket decisions on user-privacy.
As we become increasingly dependent on the Internet, we need to be increasingly concerned about how it is regulated. The Federal Communications Commission has proposed “network neutrality” rules, which would prohibit Internet service providers from discriminating against or charging premiums for certain services or applications on the Web. The commission is correct that ensuring equal access to the infrastructure of the Internet is vital, but it errs in directing its regulations only at service providers like AT&T and Comcast. Today, search engines like Google, Yahoo and Microsoft’s new Bing have become the Internet’s gatekeepers, and the crucial role they play in directing users to Web sites means they are now as essential a component of its infrastructure as the physical network itself. The F.C.C. needs to look beyond network neutrality and include “search neutrality”: the principle that search engines should have no editorial policies other than that their results be comprehensive, impartial and based solely on relevance.
After a U.S. senator was shot on Fox's drama "24" this year, another character blurted out the make and model of the assassin's submachine gun. The German brand had been prominent in so many episodes of "24" that gun-enthusiast bloggers, among others, speculated whether the company was paying to advertise on the show.
Fed up with a barrage of letters that arrived at the FCC last week from net-neutrality opponents (or lawmakers urging a cautious approach toward the new rules), a coalition of Internet companies are urging the FCC chairman to hold steady. “We believe a process that results in common sense baseline rules is critical to ensuring that the Internet remains a key engine of economic growth, innovation and global competitiveness,” a group of 24 CEOs and Internet company founders wrote in a letter to be delivered to the FCC Monday in support of the proposed net-neutrality rules.
FCC Chaiman Julius Genachowski outlined a number of new principles today that will guide the commission's rulemaking with regards to net neutrality. As Genachowski points out, openness was a key factor that made the Internet the success it has become. While the FCC never adopted any formal rules with regards to net neutrality, the commission adopted a set of four policy principles in 2005. Today, Genachowski announced that the FCC will begin the rulemaking process to formalize these principles and also announced two additional principles that should guide this process: non-discrimination and transparency. In addition, the FCC also announced the launch of OpenInternet.gov, a site that will track the progress of this undertaking.