Net Neutrality: New FCC Proposal Coming May 15

Jim Bennett - Author

Apr. 29 2014, Updated 9:53 a.m. ET

Net Neutrality has been a hot button issue for digital rights groups, commentators and bloggers since the U.S. Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced a proposal to reinstate new regulations in regard to net neutrality that would allow internet broadband providers to engage in traffic management, as long as it’s within reasonable parameters.

Problem is, nobody has seen the official proposal yet, which is scheduled to be released on May 15 when the FCC plans to vote on the first step to reinstate net neutrality rules denied by an appeals court in January.

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Much of the controversy revolves around a minor change in wording from the 2010 net neutrality order. FCC officials say the new proposal would allow “commercially reasonable traffic management” and in some cases “pay for traffic prioritization”. The old proposal puts a stop to “unreasonable” discrimination against legal traffic.

“To be very direct, the proposal would establish that behavior harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote in a blog post Thursday. “…no legal content may be blocked, and… ISPs may not act in a commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.”

Last week Wall Street Journal broke the story of the updated proposal saying that the FCC proposal on net neutrality would allow broadband providers to charge internet businesses a higher rate for access to faster service.

New York Times, Motley Fool, and countless bloggers have all commented on the original story prior to the actual documents being released.

So will all questions be answered on May 15? Hardly. May 15 is simply the debate over how to get started on the net neutrality issue. The FCC will create a set of proposals and ask the public to vote on them.

The FCC Chair Tom Wheeler hopes to have new net neutrality guidelines in place by the end of the year.

Net neutrality proposals have not yet included items like pay for priority, peering (traffic exchange agreements between companies), and each proposal up to this point includes a complaint handling process to the FCC to be addressed on a case by case basis. Also, the term “commercially reasonable” could change drastically over time.

This past January, Netflix signed an agreement with Comcast in regards to traffic. Many protested this agreement. However, Netflix execs cried for stronger net neutrality rules that would destroy the need for Netflix to pay for faster speeds. Many agree with Netflix’s position. Look for more big news in the near future from net neutrality.


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