After months — nay, years — of wrangling over network neutrality (the notion that all internet traffic should be treated equally, and that service providers should not be allowed to treat differently or charge extra for certain types of traffic or data from certain websites) is back.
Today the Federal Communications Commission has proposed two new rules for how Internet traffic should be treated, hamstringing ISPs that have degraded certain types of traffic (mainly peer-to-peer transfers) and, in some cases, ISPs that may have started collecting money from certain content providers in exchange for a “fast track” for their content.
In a blog post, FCC chairman Julius Genachowski said that he was undoing all of that in a quest to “preserve a free and open Internet, helping to ensure a future of opportunity, prosperity, and the vibrant flow of information and ideas.”
The two new rules being proposed are simple and as follows. Again from Genachowski’s post: “The first says broadband providers cannot discriminate against particular Internet content or applications. The second says broadband providers must be transparent about their network management practices. These principles would apply to the Internet however it is accessed, though how they apply may differ depending on the access platform or technology used. Of course, network operators will be permitted to implement reasonable network management practices to address issues such as spam, address copyright infringement, and otherwise ensure a safe and secure network for all users.”
And with that, the idea of ISPs charging extra just because you watch of lot of YouTube — or blocking you from visiting the site — goes out the window. Naturally, network neutrality advocates, who’ve lobbied for such rules for years, are dancing in the streets. ISPs are less celebratory.
What’s next? The FCC goes into formal lawmaking mode next month and will need to put the new suggested rules out for public comment. The final rules, however they evolve, will then have to be approved by three of the FCC’s five commissioners. But none of those appear to be substantial obstacles to network neutrality ultimately being implemented. Net neutrality looks like it will soon be here to stay.