Wednesday, October 11, 2023

FCC Plans to Reinstate Network Neutrality

Jess Weatherbed (Hacker News):

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has announced plans to reinstate landmark net neutrality rules meant to guarantee fair access to the internet and its information, five years after they were repealed by then-president Donald Trump in 2018.

Previous net neutrality rules adopted in 2015 classified broadband service under public utility rules and prevented internet service providers from blocking websites, throttling traffic, or charging more for faster access to certain services. According to FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel, the commission is expected to conduct an initial vote on reinstating these rules next month during an October 19th meeting.

I’m overall sympathetic to the network neutrality argument, but it seems like none of the horrors predicted after its removal came to pass. It’s not clear that we got any of the benefits predicted by the other side, either, though. Maybe six years is not enough time, or maybe the threat of neutrality is enough: the companies weren’t going to make drastic changes in response to regulatory changes that could easily be reversed.


Update (2023-10-27): Jon Brodkin (Hacker News):

The Federal Communications Commission today voted to move ahead with a plan that would restore net neutrality rules and common-carrier regulation of Internet service providers.

In a 3-2 party-line vote, the FCC approved Chairwoman Jessica Rosenworcel’s Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM), which seeks public comment on the broadband regulation plan. Initial comments are due on December 14 and the reply comment deadline is January 17; the docket can be found here.

See also: Net Neutrality Violations: A Brief History.

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It’s worth pointing out that California enacted state net neutrality rules in the wake of the FCC repealing them. That alone may have prevented a lot of the possibilities from happening.

Simone beat me to it (hi Simone!), and a few other states backed up California. The long form:

Kevin Schumacher

Per Ars, nearly a dozen states already have such laws in place, so at least where the national/large regional ISPs are concerned, they are likely already subject to it at least somewhere in their service areas. This makes it less likely they would misbehave generally, especially since their efforts to overturn California's law failed spectacularly.

But the Ars article also goes into detail about other things that reclassifying the companies under Title II can allow the FCC to do, such as deal more effectively with robotexts and give broadband-only providers pole-attachment rights.

The state laws seem like a good explanation, although again this seems like something the predictions were wrong about.

Net neutrality is just how the internet has always worked and no telco has had the guts to challenge the status quo (too much). Still, as the internet has become an essential utility, we should enshrine and protect these unwritten rules.

Just look at what’s happening in Europe again: Telcos demanding that Netflix and other big tech companies pay for part of their network costs. It just makes no sense. Their customers are already paying them to get access to Netflix. Such backdoor payments would have zero price competition.

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