In a seemingly confusing message from the White House, President Obama sent a directive to the FCC on the regulation of broadband internet, yet maintained a commitment to a a “free and open internet.” Part of the confusion comes from trying to grasp how further regulation could ensure a free and open internet when the internet was created free and open and has remained that way, undisturbed for two decades without any significant regulation.
Despite what may seem logical, the administration urged the FCC to enforce the notion that all internet traffic be treated the same way, also known as “Net Neutrality.” What has been a leading spur of this is the recent move by some ISPs (Internet Service Providers) to throttle traffic or boost traffic depending on special arrangements made behind the scenes with content creators.
For example, according to an open free market, there would be nothing preventing AT&T or Comcast from giving extra bandwidth to say Netflix over another competitor such as Hulu because of a special arrangement between the content company and the distribution company. Some folks have chimed in that this poses no real threat as any significant throttling of traffic would surely alienate large swaths of customers and create terrible PR.
Nonetheless, the Obama administration sees this as a worthwhile pet project to take on at the end of a lame duck term. It does go far for approval ratings to show a preference for an open internet but the question remains how added regulation can be tantamount to openness. Should not the individual ISPs be left to live or die for their own business practices?
Essentially, the President wants to treat Internet service just like other utilities such as natural gas, electric and water. Hoping the FCC will not allow companies “to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas,” is the presidents intent. Time will tell if legislation comes to be and the effect thereof. The current projection is to not expect any official guidance or legislation on this issue until minimally sometime in 2015.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler had the following remarks, “We cannot allow broadband networks to cut special deals to prioritize Internet traffic and harm consumers, competition and innovation.” Hopefully the parties at hand can come to terms in a way that benefits the future of the internet in the most positive way.