David Bakker | March 16, 2015
At Arraya, we’re all about innovation. We’ve written a number of blogs on it, and we’ve made it one of our core values so that it’s at the very heart of what we do as a company. Recently we started getting questions from our customers about a tech issue that’s been making headlines lately and that also ties directly in to innovation: net neutrality. Each side of the net neutrality issue believes theirs is out to defend innovation, while the other guy is out to stifle it.
So it was with great interest that we watched as the FCC weighed in and issued a historic vote on the matter. As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, the FCC voted in favor of net neutrality. In the opinion of the FCC, the decision ensures the Internet will continue to be an enabler of free expression, economic growth and yes, innovation. There’s that word again. Of course, those on the other side of the issue had a less-sunny view of things.
But before we get into that, let’s take a step back first and look at just what the FCC was voting on in the first place. There are a couple of key components of the vote. First up was whether or not broadband lines should be reclassified under Title II of the Communications Act, making them a public utility. This would, in essence, put broadband lines on the same level as landlines for telephones.
Another part of the debate was whether Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should have the option to:
- charge customers more to access increased speeds for certain content
- slow down or “throttle” select types of traffic
- block access outright to legal content
From the ISPs’ perspectives, they seem to view the new rules as unnecessary and as a slippery slope to investment and innovation-stymieing government regulations. In their minds, increased regulation isn’t the best way to ensure freedom. There’s also the matter of Title II potentially giving the FCC the ability to dictate prices.
One tech policy expert, Scott Cleland, pointed out that since the 1990’s, when the government took a more relaxed stance on the industry, Internet speeds have increased more than 200x, prices have fallen and access has expanded. All of that showed the system wasn’t broken and didn’t need fixing.
Despite the outcome of the vote, the FCC has assured the industry it doesn’t plan to meddle in its business affairs.
In order to encourage providers to continue to invest in their networks – and also, to continue their innovation efforts – the FCC said it will tailor the application of Title II to make it more palatable to providers. To do this, the FCC will refrain from:
- applying utility-style rate regulation
- requiring providers to grant their competitors access to their delivery lines for a wholesale price (known as “last mile unbundling”)
- necessitating burdensome administrative filing requirements and accounting standards
The fight isn’t over yet
The fight over net neutrality is far from over as appeals and petitions are sure to follow. Verizon is so upset about the decision that it wrote an entire blog post in Morse Code to signify what it sees as the FCC imposing rules from the 1930’s on today’s internet.
For now, if you rely heavily on the Internet to get your products or services in front of your customers, you won’t have to worry about issues like content being blocked or traffic slowed at the discretion of an ISP.
Have a question about a big picture tech industry issue? Or is there a tool or product feature that’s been giving you headaches? Email us. We’ll run your question by our panel of experts and then post the answers right here on our blog. Don’t worry, we’ll keep the specifics – name, contact info, etc. – out of the post. Or send your questions to us on Twitter @ArrayaSolutions.