Net Neutrality rules may be delayed as FCC looks for ways to neuter its latest proposal

by Matt Klassen on November 10, 2014

The Federal Communications Commission’s promise to deliver updated and defensible Net Neutrality standards by the end of this year may be one Christmas wish that will go unfulfilled, as the FCC has reportedly cautioned that the rules may be delayed until next year. The problem, as reported by the Wall Street Journal, is that the new Net Neutrality rules are so complicated, rumoured to include both wireless and wired Internet, that the FCC needs more time to “ensure they are defensible in court and people understand them.”

The plan itself, reports indicate, is a hybrid framework of sorts, an attempt to appease broadband providers and others who desire little or no Internet regulation and activists and Open Internet supporters who want to see more oversight, transparency, and accountability.

But while I fully support the FCC’s decision to take more time creating airtight Net Neutrality standards, with rumours that the Commission will still include fast and slow lanes in its proposal and soften its oversight over carriers’ retail operation, that is, selling the Internet to regular consumers, I have a feeling its really not going to worth the wait.

As the WSJ explains, “Under the emerging plan, Internet providers’ retail operations—where consumers pay for Web access—would be regulated more lightly than the back end, in which broadband providers serve as the conduit for websites to distribute content. The FCC would classify the back-end service as a common carrier, like the old landline telephone network, giving the agency the ability to police any deals between content companies and broadband providers.”

Simply put, the FCC will continue to allow carriers to gouge consumers, creating tiered options that give those with more money access to a better Internet, while closely regulating the relationship between carriers and companies who require strong, consistent Internet access to conduct business, companies like Netflix for instance. That means that the flow of goods and services will be closely monitored while network management and pricing for consumers will go relatively unregulated.

While I will admit that Net Neutrality supporters would be naïve to think that they were going to win everything–creating a free and open Internet for all and sticking it to the broadband carriers at the same time is a pipe dream, let’s be honest—I think the one thing we all wanted to see was regulation that protected consumers, not regulation that protected other businesses.

In fact, I’m disgusted by these proposed regulations, as it seems the FCC hasn’t listened to the Open Internet supporters at all. While backroom deals about corporate access to Internet fast lanes is bothersome and should be regulated, the real issue here is carriers have little or no oversight regarding how they treat their subscribers, meaning throttling and arbitrary blocking—otherwise known as “network management”—will still continue unabated, and consumers will once again be left out in the cold. Although I suppose making Net Neutrality once again irrelevant is one way to make it more defensible.

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