Six net neutrality principles proposed

Oct 26, 2009 by Lin Edwards weblog
Partial map of the Internet based on the January 15, 2005 data found on Each line is drawn between two nodes, representing two IP addresses. Image: Wikimedia Commons.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in the U.S. voted last week to start a process to formulate rules that could force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to uphold six principles that would preserve net neutrality, or what the FCC terms "open Internet".

FCC Chairman, Julius Genachowski, said rules on net neutrality are necessary to protect innovations on the Internet and to preserve the kind of openness that has allowed the Internet to flourish. He said there have been situations in which ISPs have degraded data streams or even blocked access to lawful applications, and fair rules are necessary to avoid the potentially damaging consequences of having the openness of the Internet diminished.

Opponents, on the other hand, say the Internet has grown so rapidly because of the lack of rules and regulations, and that rules are not needed. Some opponents have also suggested that introducing rules could set a precedent for other countries to introduce regulations covering Internet use.

The principles suggested are that ISPs should allow users to:

1. send and receive all lawful content
2. use all lawful services and applications
3. use all lawful devices that do not damage the network
4. access all network, service, content and application providers

The principles will also ensure ISPs:

5. do not discriminate against lawful content, services, applications, or devices
6. reveal any practices that could limit the previous five principles

The rules have been sought by many large Internet companies such as , and, many consumer advocacy groups such as Free Press and Public Knowledge, many members of the FCC, and Internet pioneers like David Reed and Vint Cerf. Supporters say that without rules ISPs will change their price structures to tiered systems with the highest level services out of the financial reach of many entrepreneurs wishing to start their own Internet businesses. Those in favor of rules are also worried that without them some applications, such as VoIP, could become unaffordable or could even be banned for many people, thus reducing their voice call options.

Opponents to proposed net neutrality rules include Internet providers such as Verizon and AT & T, who say the rules would prevent them charging more for premium services, and the higher charges provide the incentive for the investment in network upgrades to boost performance. The result could be either more expensive rates across the board, or paying for Internet traffic by the byte.

The proposed FCC rules would also have effects on businesses, especially those with a well-developed Internet presence. Higher flat rates would push up Internet access costs for business and customers alike, and could result in a decrease in demand for online services because of their increased expense. This could have especially serious effects on businesses such as websites selling high definition video downloads.

If the FCC's six principles are adopted the effects on home users could be higher monthly charges or higher costs for downloads, but they would still be able to make phone calls using Internet services such as Skype, which would not be blocked. If the rules are not adopted, ISPs are likely to limit bandwidth and VoIP (especially as some large ISPs are also voice carriers, which are threatened by online phone services).

Republican Senator John McCain (Ariz), is opposed to the rules, and has introduced a bill to block them, while President Barack Obama has placed rules as among his top priorities. A vote on the proposed rules will take place in 2010.

© 2009

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User comments : 8

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not rated yet Oct 26, 2009
These rules are just not specific enough to be enforceable in the US or globally - sounds more like early turf jockeying between high bandwidth sites and services vs the ISP's. If we were to view the ISP's like any other utility (water, electric, waste, etc), would we really expect them to accommodate unlimited growth in the usage of their product and create laws or rules to make sure they don't compensated for these increases?
not rated yet Oct 26, 2009
Protect us from the FCC. Leave it to them to screw up the internet.
not rated yet Oct 26, 2009
Yea I honestly have high hopes for the internet but leave it to gov to screw up everything...
not rated yet Oct 26, 2009
Who determines what is lawful? Will ISPs be able to curtail bandwidth on suspicion of unlawful use, or must the use must first be determined unlawful in a court of law? (after which the criminal would presumably not be using bandwidth anymore anyway.)

Sounds like the "lawful" word here is a placeholder for "suspicion of unlawful use" or "something we don't like."
not rated yet Oct 26, 2009
Big Tone,

Net Neutrality does not prevent ISPs from being compensated for additional capacity consumption by their customers. An ISP can charge usage-based fees under Net Neutrality.

What Net Neutrality does prohibit is ISPs giving preferential treatment to their own content. For example, Net Neutrality would prohibit a cable or DSL access provider from providing a superior service for its own content if it does not provide such an option for content originating elsewhere on their net.

Net Neutrality simply recognizes the incentive that ISPs, particularly the owners of Last Mile Access, have to rig the game in their own favour.

not rated yet Oct 27, 2009

The main player in the net neutrality movement is Google, who has plans to snuff out traditional phone and cable television service in the next 3-5 years. They've bought enough dark fiber that they have become their own international ISP, putting them on the doorstep of every last-mile ISP's point of exit from their own network.

And now they're using their huge monopolistic market share to coax the government and misguided idealists into allowing them to beat the ISPs into submission, taking away the last few advantages they have so Google can steal their primary source of income (phone and television service) and relegate them all to only providing a dumb pipe to consumers.

All the while Google has been avoiding any regulations itself, ranging from the widely publicized common carrier violations to issues with it's use of data generated from it's growing services, even breaking it's own proposed rules by using QOS in it's network for internal replication.
not rated yet Oct 27, 2009
Would consumers win if Google does? Will the cost of Internet access go up or down if Verizon, Comcast or AT&T only dealt with Internet connections? Are you ready for a future where you get ads targeted at you from not only web traffic but words from your voice mail or phone conversations?

Google has a huge conflict of interest in the debate that cannot be avoided yet is never discussed.
not rated yet Oct 27, 2009
MatthiasF - interesting, but what does it have to do with net neutrality?
If our ISPs wouldnt provide just "dumb pipe" (as they should!) would it somehow help?

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