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Net Neutrality Rules Enacted as ISPs Fight to Overturn Them

Published by: Andy on 16th Jun 2015 | View all blogs by Andy

Net Neutrality Rules Enacted as ISPs Fight to Overturn Them

The Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules officially went into effect on Friday, though there si still quite a bit of confusion as to what the rules actually do.  The rules were published back on April 13th, but a two-month waiting period was observed before they went into effect.  Several internet Service providers, including Verizon and AT&T, have filed an appeal, though it could take years before that action is eventually decided by the Supreme Court.  The ISPs asked a judge to halt several sections of the rules until their appeal is resolved, but a court denied the request last week, on the same day the net neutrality rules were enacted.

The FCC's net neutrality rules are written out in a massive, 400-page document that even the most diligent of attorneys would take days to read through.  The most common question asked about the legislation, however, is how the rules will impact consumers.  The answer is a mixed bag, as there's both positives and negatives for consumers in the rules.  The biggest way that net neutrality benefits consumers is that it prevents ISPs from limiting speed along the last mile of cable to consumers' homes.  This was the primary purpose for net neutrality, as many regulators feared that ISPs would continually take liberties with broadband customers' Internet speeds as the web becomes more and more crowded.  The legislation also defines ISPs as telecommunications services, masking them susceptible to FCC regulation under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1934.  This is a major sticking point for ISPs, and is believed to be the principle reason they are fighting the rules.

The part of net neutrality that directly affects consumers is called the “bright-line rules”.  They essentially say that ISP must provide non-discriminatory, unhindered web access to their customers so long as the content is legal.  These rules also apply to content providers such as Netflix and Hulu, meaning an ISP can't slow delivery of those firms' content, even if they own a competing service.  The rules also forbid throttling, or slowing down, of illegal content, and forbid charging content providers a higher fee for priority delivery of their content.  From the consumer's point of view, the bright-line rules mean their Internet speeds will not be slowed down, regardless of how much data they use, so long as the content is legal.  

On the down side, the cost of Internet service is expected to rise faster because of the rules as an incentive for ISPs to build out infrastructure has been removed by the prohibition of prioritization fees.  The thought is that, by not allowing ISP's to charge extra fees to data-heavy services like Netflix, the ISP's will be slower to invest in infrastructure because it will be harder to recoup those expenses.  By charging prioritization fees, ISPs could use that extra income to fund expansion, but those costs will undoubtedly filter down to consumers since the fees were outlawed.

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