Oh Net Neutrality, Where Art Thou?

by Matt Klassen on July 10, 2015

Despite the fact the Federal Communications Commission’s Net Neutrality standards have been implemented, the open Internet drama isn’t over, far from it in fact. What’s interesting in this ongoing saga, though, is what adherence to the FCC’s Net Neutrality standards seems to mean to the big Internet service providers, as compared to what it means to us rank-and-file who continue to clamour for the Internet we’ve bought and paid for.

As it is with so many landmark regulations of this sort, it is becoming abundantly clear that Net Neutrality has little to do with transforming an Internet service industry run amuck, and more about posturing, public image, and, like we’ve seen before, knuckling under. Now granted the new rules allow the FCC to fine companies, something the Commission has done already, but as we’ve already seen, it applies these rules willy-nilly, as it sees fit, for while it has fined AT&T, it has done so not for the implementation of data caps, but for being unclear about them, and it has avoided penalizing the likes of T-Mobile for exactly the same thing.

Not only that, but only a few weeks old and Net Neutrality has seemingly become a bargaining chip for large ISPs, with firms promising adherence (for a limited time mind you) in exchange for help on mergers and acquisitions. Instead of protecting the little guy from the threat of arbitrary “network management,” the unfortunately reality is that with regulations we all hoped would change everything…nothing has changed.

Over the past few weeks we’ve written at length about the impact Net Neutrality is having on the Internet service industry, and whether or not the actual practices of ISPs is changing. The unfortunate reality is that we’ve seen a lot of talk since June about company’s adhering to these new codes of conduct, but I likely don’t need to say that saying you’re following the rules and actually following them are two completely different things.

While again we’ve seen the FCC flex its Net Neutrality muscles and fine AT&T for unclear network management practices, the FCC itself seems arbitrary in its governance of these new rules, as one could argue that T-Mobile, which explains its own throttling practices for so-called “unlimited” customers in the finest of print, is guilty of exactly the same thing, yet it seems to have the blessing of the FCC.

You see, while Net Neutrality regulates against arbitrary blocking or throttling and prevents tiered fast and slow lanes, the simple fact is that it doesn’t cover all the language ISPs use to explain away their violations, so instead of calling their practice throttling, firms now refer to it as usage caps (which is why T-Mobile continues to maintain this practice), and everything continues as it was.

Now that’s not to say that ISPs need rules that allow for warranted network management, as comprehensive regulations need to understand the actual needs of the industry as well as its beleaguered customers. But what we’re already seeing is that Net Neutrality in its current form is as it has always been, toothless. The regulations are too vague to spur any real industry change, and now, weeks later; it seems little more than a public relations bargaining chip companies can use to further their mergers and acquisitions. As I said, there were promises that everything would change when Internet service became a public utility, in actuality, it seems nothing has changed at all.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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