Tethering settlement won’t end net neutrality

RoryPenman1:23 Colby Patterson
Rory Penman

Rory Penman

The recent ruling on the case between the Federal Communications Commission and Verizon is in many ways unfortunate, in many ways expected and not that bad. But the issue of net neutrality is still an issue that we, as consumers and constituents of the United States government, ought to make our voices heard on. A number of lamenting opinion pieces have shown up arguing that the net as we know it is dead and the consumer will pay a heavy price. I myself argued almost that exact idea previously. But the ruling by the court does not bar the FCC from regulating the broadband providers. It merely forces them to either classify broadband providers as common carriers, or regulate them in a different manner. This may be the very ruling needed to get better, more nuanced rules from the FCC and allow for the sort of innovative market Internet service providers claim to be working towards.

I don’t agree with claims such as Verizon’s that this ruling will allow “broadband providers to offer new and innovative services to their customers,” especially given that Verizon and the other major ISPs haven’t been apparently interested in “new and innovative services.” Take, for example, Google Fiber, a brilliant utopian dream for all of those who love their Internet — or at least, so the news tells you. It’s a nice idea — if financially unfeasible — of bringing good, steady Internet connections and fast speeds to consumers. Rather than meet it with actual efforts to develop a comparable service, the entrenched ISPs have chosen to meet it with press releases. AT&T said “it is prepared to build an advanced fiber optic infrastructure … capable of delivering speeds up to one gigabit per second.” Which is nice, because my Internet from Comcast is capable of delivering 50 megabits per second. I’ve never seen that, of course. I saw it once hit 10 Mbps on a speed test, but it’s nice to know it’s capable of reaching such impressive speeds.

The ruling from the court does let stand the new FCC rules on transparency, requiring providers to disclose information on their network management, according to ArsTechnica, and more specifically, returned the rules to the FCC “for further proceedings consistent with this opinion.” The ruling has not broken the FCC, and it allows for the American consumer to see how their Internet service provider is managing their resources. Whether a company chooses to throttle connection speeds to Netflix because it competes with their video-on-demand service or chooses to slow Internet to a crawl because of websites owned by their competitors, we as consumers can still know about it.

While we wait for the FCC to decide whether they will appeal the decision, let us not be too concerned about the state of our Internet (unless you’re concerned about the government spying on you). Net neutrality will rise again, and in due time, we can expect to see a balanced sort of Internet arise, where we can see “new and innovative” services, as well as fair and balanced access to all sites.