By: Andrew Han
On Tuesday, December 21, a divided Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed a set of rules that forbids broadband companies from interfering with Internet traffic. According to the FCC website, “the Federal Communications Commission is an independent United States government agency… [responsible for] regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable.”
The controversial rules attempt to support “net neutrality,” the effort to provide equal access to all websites and online services.
“These rules fulfill a promise to the future — to companies that don’t yet exist, and the entrepreneurs that haven’t yet started work in their dorm rooms or garages,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at a meeting on Tuesday in Washington. These are “basic Internet values,” he says, that were not protected before the introduction of these rules. the recent proposal.
FCC officials also said that the new rules will promote Internet transparency regarding network management practices. “That sunshine will help deter bad behavior,” one official said.
However, a number of public interest groups such as Free Press and Public Knowledge have denounced the rules as “fake net neutrality.” Critics have said that the proposed system is “flush with giant loopholes” and has “created a vague and shifting landscape open to interpretation.”
Democratic Senator Al Franken of Minnesota has said that the proposal will result in disparities on the mobile Internet. “Maybe you like Google Maps. Well, tough… if the F.C.C. passes this weak rule, Verizon will be able to cut off access to the Google Maps app on your phone and force you to use their own mapping program… even if they charge money, when Google Maps is free.”
The FCC proposal would require “reasonable network management” by broadband providers and would discourage but not explicitly prohibit “paid prioritization,” a process that would allow a media company to pay an Internet provider to “cut to the front of the line” and provide increased access to its website or services. Franken said that “if corporations are allowed to prioritize content on the Internet… there is nothing to prevent those same corporations from censoring political speech”. His sentiment reflects that of many critics on the left, who believe that the set of rules is not enough to prevent network operators from gaining too much control over the Internet.
Critics on the right say that the FCC’s proposal is unnecessary. “Nothing is broken that needs fixing,” wrote Republican FCC commissioner Robert McDowell in the Wall Street Journal.
Analysts expect that the debate over the proposal will continue in courts for the next few months as the FCC addresses new challenges to the its rules.