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According to the FCC the answer is yes!

Back in November 2009 we covered the FCC’s (Federal Communications Commission) plans to introduce legislation to enforce net neutrality – the theory that all Internet users and traffic should be treated equally and without bias.

Neil Watson, Head of Operations

Neil Watson, Head of Operations

The proposals had caused an uproar amongst ISPs in the US as they required network operators to be more transparent about the management of their networks and stopped them from blocking or slowing down certain types of legal traffic e.g. P2P. Obviously the ISPs were far from happy about this and argued that they had invested heavily in the development of their networks only to have their managerial power removed.

Last week the FCC announced their National Broadband Plan which, as expected, includes their initial proposals regarding net neutrality. Specifically section 4.4 reminds us of their initial NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) which states:

1. Content. Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service may not prevent any of its users from sending or receiving the lawful content of the user’s choice over the Internet.

2. Applications and Services. Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service may not prevent any of its users from running the lawful applications or using the lawful services of the user’s choice.

3. Devices. Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service may not prevent any of its users from connecting to and using on its network the user’s choice of lawful devices that do not harm the network.

4. Competitive Options. Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service may not deprive any of its users of the user’s entitlement to competition among network providers, application providers, service providers and content providers.

5. Nondiscrimination. Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service must treat lawful content, applications and services in a nondiscriminatory manner.

6. Transparency. Subject to reasonable network management, a provider of broadband Internet access service must disclose such information concerning network management and other practices as is reasonably required for users and content, application and service providers to enjoy the protections specified in this part.

As we stated in our original article, whilst we agree with the fundamental principles of net neutrality and agree with an open and honest approach to network and traffic management, we believe that it should be the network providers who should decide how best to manage their networks and traffic. It should not be decided by government on a one-size-fit- all approach. If a customer does not like the ISP they are using or the package they are on they are free to move to an alternative provider.

And that is another area the plan aims to address; competition within the broadband market. One of the plan’s recommendations is the removal of a number of barriers to entry within the broadband market and the provision (alongside the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST)) of clear and concise information to consumers regarding the actual performance of their broadband service.

In fact the plan covers many areas and works towards six key goals by the target date of 2020:

Goal 1: At least 100 million U.S. homes should have affordable access to actual download speeds of at least 100 megabits per second and actual upload speeds of at least 50 megabits per second.

Goal 2: The United States should lead the world in mobile innovation, with the fastest and most extensive wireless networks of any nation.

Goal 3: Every American should have affordable access to robust broadband service, and the means and skills to subscribe if they so choose.

Goal 4: Every community should have affordable access to at least 1Gbps broadband service to anchor institutions such as schools, hospitals and government buildings.

Goal 5: To ensure the safety of Americans, every first responder should have access to a nationwide public safety wireless network.

Goal 6: To ensure that America leads in the clean energy economy, every American should be able to use broadband to track and manage their real-time energy consumption.

The key points to note here are the high speed targets they have set. Whilst we have a USC delivering just 2Mbps connections across the UK the US is aiming to deliver 100Mbps to at least 100million homes. Goal 3 aims to provide the 100million US homes who do not currently have access to broadband (14million of which want it) with affordable access by 2020.

This is all very much food for thought especially as here in the UK we are currently debating the Digital Economy Bill as it continues to make its way into law. Whilst in some instances we appear to be focusing on the same issues and tackling them in similar ways, albeit on differing scales (e.g. digital divide), in other instances we appear to have a very different focus.

Whilst our attention appears to be drawn to tackling copyright infringement and debating the possibility of disconnections and website withdrawals, the US barely touches on this issue. Instead it focuses on its USC, encouraging market competition, improving information for consumers and advocating net neutrality. Perhaps our time would be better spent focussing on the rollout of the 2Mbps USC and how it will be funded (50p broadband tax?) than going over and over the issues of copyright infringement when many within the industry are already in agreement that the current proposals are unworkable and unfair.

It will be very interesting to see how this ambitious National Broadband Plan pans out throughout its implementation stages. We will keep you posted.

Have your say!

What are your thoughts regarding the FCC’s National Broadband Plan? Do you agree or disagree with their enforcement of net neutrality? What do you think about their plans to deliver 100Mbps connectivity? Let us know by leaving us a comment below.

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