This week, The Wall Street Journal reported that regulators are proposing new rules on Internet traffic that would allow content companies to pay Internet service providers for special access to consumers, which will be available on “commercially reasonable” terms to all interested content providers.
According to Mother Jones, the FCC “has given up on finding a legal avenue to enforce equal access” because the new rules would allow broadband providers to give preferential treatment to some traffic.
So Google and Microsoft and Netflix and other large, well-capitalized incumbents will pay for speedy service. Smaller companies that can’t—or that ISPs just aren’t interested in dealing with—will get whatever plodding service is left for everyone else. ISPs won’t be allowed to deliberately slow down traffic from specific sites, but that’s about all that’s left of net neutrality. Once you’ve approved the notion of two-tier service, it hardly matters whether you’re speeding up some of the sites or slowing down others.
Similarly, The Verge reported that the new rules would undermine the concept of net neutrality:
The goal of net neutrality rules is to prevent service providers from discriminating between different content, allowing all types of data and all companies’ data to be treated equally. While it appears that outright blocking of individual services won’t be allowed, the Journal reports that some forms of discrimination will be allowed, though that will apparently not include slowing down websites. In response, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement that reports of net neutrality’s demise are “flat out wrong.” Nonetheless, allowing some websites to pay for preferentially treatment would inherently favor larger, more successful companies.
The new rules generally favor the interests of ISPs and may not be satisfactory to net neutrality proponents such as Netflix. From The Verge:
Netflix would also like to see the rules govern the actual infrastructure for moving data, preventing service providers from charging companies fees for delivering it to their customers, but the FCC has said that it won’t be doing this for now, with its rules only covering what’s known as the “last mile” between providers and their customers.