Many think that cyber-warfare is fought with only ones and zeros. However, a battle is raging for the Internet itself inside the courts and halls of government. Net neutrality has been a huge topic for some time and will continue to be. Statements made this week by the FCC were heard and heralded as a striking blow, but be weary as the battle is not yet over.
The Man, The Myth, The Mole???
The Chairman of the FCC., Tom Wheeler, released his plan to treat the Internet as a Title II service much to the gleeful roar of the public a few days ago. Why is this big deal? Because the Internet has gone largely unregulated up until this point and that has been a double-edged sword. While allowing people and businesses never before seen avenues of access and communication, it has also allowed service providers to arbitrarily set standards and prices for Internet access. If titled as a Title II service, the FCC would then have power to regulate Internet access and the companies selling access to it.
The odd part of this situation is Tom Wheeler himself. Just a few months ago, he proposed a plan to allow the Internet and its access to remain laxed. This would have permitted service providers to restrict bandwidth on services at their discretion, as they did with Netflix. This caused Netflix to pay both Comcast and Verizon a fee to not throttle their content being delivered to said company’s customers.
Perhaps what makes this turnabout even more incredulous is Mr. Wheeler’s past. Before joining the FCC, he was a lobbyist for the very service providers he is seeking to regulate. Bias and integrity were questioned at his appointment and perhaps should be questioned again.
Life Without The Fast Lane
The legislative changes themselves are still of concern, regardless of who is proposing them. There may still be ways that ISP’s get the better of customers.
First off, “fast lanes” stand against everything the Internet was founded upon by taking away open access and being successful. Rather than finding new revenue, ISP’s found it easier to essentially extort tolls from the likes of Netflix for producing traffic on their network. Title II authority would allow the FCC to forbid such transactions.
Why worry about no “fast lanes”? As great as the elimination of fast lanes may sound, ISP’s may hook in to other charges and fees. There would be no regulation on pricing and we know well that when the government starts regulating something it will be taxed. Nothing is set in stone on this matter, but just look at other utilities and you will clearly see that they are taxed.
Look at service providers to make other changes in order to make money on their services. Although not stated by any ISP, it may be possible for them to restructure their rate systems. Could ISP’s model their rates like the phone system? Could Internet access be rated on the region you are accessing – local, long-distance, international? These are old business practices based on old systems, but these are large companies slow to change and this is how they know to make money.
Hurry Up and Wait
Don’t get too excited about the vote being held on February 26th. The FCC’s plan still has to be approved by Congress and is likely to be stalled. Expect the lawmakers to be listening to the lawyers and lobbyists from the service providers.
Even after any laws or bills pass, don’t wait for service providers to engage in changing their networks. The United States is already in the lower ranks of speed but higher ranks of costs for service. Past history has already shown that providers aren’t likely to change this any time soon.
At the very least, be pleased that the nearly four million comments submitted about net neutrality were not ignored. Keep hope alive for better service and the Internet remaining a bastion of freedom. Given that everything from online multi-player services to digital game purchases require the Internet, you may want to keep an eye on this situation.
Paul Novak is a self described Polish ninja toiling away as an IT professional but more into gaming and writing. Physically existing in the west side of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania yet existentially flowing with the ether of the Internet. Found here at What’s Your Tag? and on the Twitter @dudewantshisrug. Game on with Team XBRO!