FCC Closes Net Neutrality Loophole

John Lister's picture

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has banned Internet carriers from giving some applications access to "fast lane" speeds. The tweak to recently-restored net neutrality rules aims to close a potential loophole.

Last month, the FCC voted to restore the principle of net neutrality. Broadly they say Internet carriers must treat all traffic equally. The commission has now published the full wording of the rules which will enforce the principle.

One of the most notable elements of net neutrality is speed. Previously used rules explicitly barred carriers from slowing down access when people used specific applications. For example, some carriers slowed down connections when people used file sharing tools, such as torrents.

Supporters of net neutrality had worried carriers might respond to the return of net neutrality by using a loophole. They would keep speeds "normal" for most traffic, but increase it for some activities.

Speeding Up vs Slowing Down

Under the first draft of the new rules, that would have been acceptable as long as the carriers didn't charge a fee to the companies behind the applications. For example, they couldn't demand a fee from streaming video services to deliver their content at a faster speed.

The wording meant it would have been legal for carriers to charge a fee for users. For example, they could have offered a standard package where all traffic was carried at the same speed. They could then have charged a higher fee for a package where online gaming traffic was carried at a faster speed. (Source: arstechnica.com)

Principle Breached

Critics of the original wording said that wasn't simply a case of companies offering a premium service and consumers deciding whether it was worth the higher fee. They argued that speeding up some traffic in this way inherently downgraded other traffic, which is against the net neutrality principle.

The FCC has now confirmed that it has reworded the rules to stop carriers speeding up specific apps or categories of apps. It said such activity would breach a key rule that carriers "shall not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of Internet content, application, or service." (Source: fcc.gov)

What's Your Opinion?

Was the FCC right to reword the rules this way? Do you agree that speeding up some traffic breaches the principle of treating traffic equally? Do you generally agree enforcing net neutrality principles?

Rate this article: 
Average: 4.3 (6 votes)


russoule's picture

how would you like it if some goverrnment flunky said "Dennis, yy have to charge everyone the same exact fee no matter how much work is involved in fixing their sytems!"? or perhaps a government entity tells McDonald's that it must charge EXACTLY the same amount for a Big Mac in Podunk Illinois as it does in LA or NYC? this "net-neutrality" rule is just that, "we don't care about your costs or your marketing or any other business purpose that you might have fortreating low-volume users the same as high-volume users. takes more load for streaming? tough. charge the same as for gmail. funtion is NOT determinant of value."

the whole idea stinks of government imposed sales/systems/usability/control! Let The Market Decide!