On September 23 the U.S. Federal Communications Commission`s (FCC) Net neutrality rules were approved by the White house and will take effect on November 20. Nevertheless, this might be prohibited or delayed by lawsuits against the FCC, brought by Internet providers. Such have been already filed by Verizon and MetroPCS. Probably, there are much more to come.
Since the publication of the new rules there`s been a debate over their effectiveness and even necessity. The basic protections that the neutrality proposes include prohibiting Internet providers from blocking websites and apps, extra-charging “heavy” Internet users, banning or slowing down their competitors` traffic. The rules also call for a greater transparency on the companies` management and performance characteristics (users will be provided with more information about service plans, costs, etc). There should be no discrimination, no selective filtering of information, so broadband providers could not favor one type of users over another when providing lawful network traffic. The rules should guarantee that the average user will always have an access to all content on the Web and that they`ll get it as quickly as companies or anyone who can pay more for it.
The FCC will presumably fine Internet providers that throttle services for the heavy users or block the content of their competitors. Still, the new rules have many loopholes and allow providers to ration access to their networks. The rules are not the same for mobile networks and they can discriminate certain apps. So, it turns out that the data, which is accessible on a personal computer, might not be accessible on a mobile phone. Journalists and neutrality advocates argue that some of the rules may even have an opposite effect and weaken protections for the users.
President Barack Obama called the rules an important part of the progress towards “American innovation, economic growth and job creation” but Web freedom advocates claim that the new rules can’t do that. In the same time, Republicans argued that the government should not intervene with the Internet business at all. Commissioner Robert McDowell said “nothing is broken in the internet-access market that needs fixing.” Similarly, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison states that “Companies and industries that use broadband communications have flourished over the last decade without government intervention, yet the FCC has chosen to ‘fix’ a problem that does not exist”.
In 2010 Sir Tim Berners-Lee and the biggest Internet provider in Britain fiercely disputed over the need of Internet regulations. The universal right of an access to any website for all people should be guaranteed by the Net neutrality, the inventor of the web points out. He said that the Internet industry would not be able to regulate itself and guarantee the free access to information.