Cable Companies Net Neutrality

Obama: Cable Companies May ‘Exploit The Monopoly They Enjoy’

Cable companies may be facing a new set of rules. President Obama issued a public statement asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to continue the principle of ‘net neutrality’ by leaving the Internet open and free.

Net neutrality is a phrase coined by author, policy advocate, and professor at Columbia Law School, Tim Wu. Mr. Wu published a paper in the Journal of Telecommunications and High Technology Law, where he suggests a theory of network neutrality in telecommunications guidelines and its connection to Darwinian theories of advancement. He also proposes that cable companies have practiced broadband discrimination in the early 2000s.

The president and the FCC point out a number of key issues concerning cable companies adhering to ‘net neutrality’ principles.

May 15, the FCC issued a news release indicating that they had launched a broad rulemaking process, asking consumers, small businesses, cable companies (including start-ups), and other Internet service providers (ISPs), to comment and offer their suggestions on the best way to protect and promote an open Internet.

In order to find a viable approach before ruling on what cable companies will be required to do, the FCC kept communications open for four months with over 4 million people responding.

The FCC is an independent agency — they regulate interstate and international communications by wire, television, radio, satellite, and cable companies in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories.

President Obama is asking the FCC to create a new set of rules for cable companies and ISPs, rules that ensure a free and open Internet.

One of the rules suggested by president Obama maintains that there should not be paid prioritization. According to the president, no service should be stuck in a “slow lane” and a ban should be set to avoid this kind of gate keeping.

Another rule the president suggests is if consumers request access to a service or website and the content is legal, cable companies should not be allowed to block it.

Additionally, cable companies should not intentionally slow down some content or speed up other content. This process performed by cable companies is referred to as “throttling.”

Finally, the president wants increased transparency from cable companies. The president had this to say in his statement about ISPs, phone, and cable companies.

“To be current, these rules must also build on the lessons of the past. For almost a century, our law has recognized that companies who connect you to the world have special obligations not to exploit the monopoly they enjoy over access in and out of your home or business. That is why a phone call from a customer of one phone company can reliably reach a customer of a different one, and why you will not be penalized solely for calling someone who is using another provider. It is common sense that the same philosophy should guide any service that is based on the transmission of information — whether a phone call, or a packet of data.”

A debate exists concerning the issue of net neutrality and a free and open Internet.

For example, when Wired interviewed Dave Taht, a developer of open-source networking software, he had this to say about net neutrality.

“The net neutrality debate has got many facets to it, and most of the points of the debate are artificial, distracting, and based on an incorrect mental model on how the internet works.”

Today, companies like Facebook, Google, and Yahoo are rewarded a variety of benefits derived from the Internet fast lane. Many major conglomerates have dedicated lines, including content delivery services to cable companies. Consumers are already experiencing faster service, as well.

An issue worth considering is that companies like Verizon, Time Warner, and Comcast may have a larger piece of the Internet pie. These gigantic cable companies may be the only choice available to consumers, small businesses, and web companies.

[Image courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org]

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