FCC Ruling On Net Neutrality Is A Big Compromise

The FCC has ruled on net neutrality and offered up a compromise solution: ISPs can’t throttle fixed line computer users based on what kind of content they’re accessing, but wireless providers can.

The measure, approved by a 3-2 vote, will force all providers to detail how they are managing traffic. Wireless providers will not be able to block simple websites or apps that compete with their business, a coup for services like Skype.

“The FCC is moving the ball forward to protect consumers who access the Internet through wireline connections,” said Parul P. Desai, policy counsel for Consumers Union, publishers of Consumerist. But, CU “would prefer that the Commission provide stronger protections for wireless Internet users…as more Americans use smartphones and other wireless devices to surf the web.”

F.C.C. Approves Net Rules and Braces for Fight [mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes]
FCC Expected to Pass Net Neutrality Rules: Statements by Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of America [Consumers Union]
FCC Passes Compromise Net Neutrality Rules [WIRED]

Comments

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  1. c!tizen says:

    broken link

  2. Cyclone says:

    Since the link is broken, I’ll point out that wired providers can now charge you based on your usage. It’s 2010, why are we still paying ridiculous prices for bandwidth?

    • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

      Deregulation.

      • partofme says:

        Please point out an example of deregulation that caused prices to go up. Cable companies (now a dominant provider of internet services) have never been classified under Title II, so there was not a previous regulation that you could DEregulate. The only act of deregulation I’m aware of is removing build-out requirements, but that restricts access, not raises prices. If there is something else, I’d love to know, otherwise one word, politically charged answers for complicated questions fail.

        • Don't_rip_me_off_bro says:

          Here’s an example. Different industry, but the same business principles apply.

          http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/11/AR2006031101603.html

          • partofme says:

            I understand that deregulation can have bad consequences (it can also have good consequences.. it’s just like most things). I was asking for an example in this case, since it was being applied to this case. I like learning things, so if someone can give me an example, great! Otherwise, let’s stick to talking about things that actually matter.

            • ParingKnife ("That's a kniwfe.") says:

              I use the word “deregulation” to mean no and/or lax regulation as well. In this case, the FCC has had its hands tied behind its back somewhat.

            • Don't_rip_me_off_bro says:

              Not sure I understand what you mean by “things that actually matter”. By very definition, wouldn’t this case be the first of its kind? Unless there is another United States of America with an FCC that has recently made a similar ruling.

              • partofme says:

                You just made my point. We haven’t had deregulation in internet, so deregulation isn’t the cause of the problem. “things that actually matter” are the entire class of relevant arguments… not the word “deregulation”.

      • Kevin says:

        Regulation just lets the government bully private business around. If consumers would vote with their wallets instead of lobbying to get the government to make a company change the price of his goods or services, then regulation wouldn’t be needed. But no, the people must have what they want! If it’s more expensive than what they want to pay for it, instead of doing without, they cry for regulation to help control the “surging costs”! All this does is stifle innovation and harm businesses and consumers alike.

  3. ablestmage says:

    “The measure, approved by a 3-2 vote, will force all providers to detail how they are managing traffic.”

    To what extent will ISPs monitor traffic to even know which is which, now, and to what extent did they before? To what extent will they report traffic and to whom — will they report individual account traffic figures, or just generalized percentage-of-users data, I wonder?

    • sonneillon says:

      I’d send them a sticky note that says. “We got some load balancers, but the rest of that crap is more expensive than the money we would be saving on bandwidth.”

  4. Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

    link works for me.

    I do think this is a decent solution, considering that wireless bandwidth is not unlimited. You shouldn’t be downloading huge torrents and streaming media on a wireless device. Plug it in, however, and you should be able to access any damned thing you please.

    • odarkshineo says:

      and yet companies are touring 4g will replace home network wired connections… this isn’t about where we are today, but where we are GOING.

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        Of course they want you to BELIEVE that 4g is unlimited, but the fact is, there is only so much radio spectrum available, they can’t just make more. Once you are signed up for that 4G plan, along with everybody and their brother, they will finally admit they can never meet the demand they have created.

        Wired internet can provide nearly unlimited bandwidth. Wireless can only provide as much bandwidth as available spectrum allows.

        • jason in boston says:

          My 4g is unlimited (rooted epic). Jan will be my “seeing how far I can use 4g as a replacement for comcast” test. Upto now I am averaging 10 gigs a month (8 down 2 up). It will be this way until 1) Sprint kicks me off or 2) my contract is up and I reevaluate options.

          • Happy Tinfoil Cat says:

            We bumped up against Comcast’s 250GB cap and had to upgrade. Of course, that’s five of us… still 50GB average per person. If it were mobile we’d probably use a lot more. I don’t see wireless competing for our business.

            • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

              Exactly this. Wireless can only provide that kind bandwidth until it hits the walls erected by the cold hard laws of Physics. And there’s no way the FCC or congress can do anything about that, no matter how much money wireless providers stick in their pockets.

            • jason in boston says:

              Funny you say that – I was one of the first 5 kicked off comcast in the boston area when they had the 250 gig / month limit.

              I was asked to upgrade to a business account that is actually less than the amount of money I was paying (a little more now with a static ip) for consumer. Now I don’t feel too bad helping out the linux torrents or any other legal torrent as I easily go through 1tb a month.

              • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

                What do you mean when the had a 250 cap? I’m in boston and Comcast still has a 250GB cap and now they even brag about it as hole and how it’s there to improve your performance by stopping evil doers etc. Then even give you a monthly meter on your account page now, which I guess is better than quietly limiting you, still, unlimited should mean unlimited.

    • qwickone says:

      Make sure you consider that for a lot of rural homes, wireless is the only decent choice for internet. If that’s your only viable source for an internet connection, do you still think this ruling should stand?

      • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

        We made telephone wiring happen for everyone. Our government decided that it was THAT important. We could do the same with internet, but the FCC would have to treat ISPs like telecos.

        I do agree with you that “the last mile” presents problems. But if a home has phone and electric, wiring broadband would be not only possible, but preferable to a wireless solution.

        • FrankReality says:

          CS – power and phone in rural areas like mine came in through the co-ops, with loans and incentives from the Federal government. The phone co-op was purchased many years ago by a phone company and ownership has been bounced around from company to company since. We got power out here in 1938.

          What’s funny is the phone company sales people keep calling periodically trying to sell us high-speed internet service, we tell them we’re interested and then the technical people tell us they can’t offer us the service about a month later.

    • daemonaquila says:

      You obviously don’t know much about wireless broadband if that’s what you think. Many rural folks use it as a primary connection, and can’t get wired broadband or can only get exorbitantly priced broadband through a cable company whose “package” they don’t want and can’t afford. Others, like me, not only live in rural America but travel all over the country on business. Wireless broadband is the only reasonable option for people whose primary computer is a laptop and whose desk might be in a car 100 miles from the nearest town one day, an airport the next, a New York hotel, a meeting room in Oklahoma City, etc.

      Your comment about how you shouldn’t be streaming media on a wireless device is just silly. What, pray tell, were iPads, netbooks, etc. specifically designed for?

      • FrankReality says:

        Just noting that I do not have access to wired broadband. No cable providers, no DSL through the phone company, no fiber options either.

        Best I can get at my home is wireless DSL at a speed of 512Kb download and 128Kb upload. Satellite link is possible, but is no faster and has outage issues during storms which is when I need internet service the most.

        There are no plans for any provider to offer more capacity/speed. We’re definitely on the wrong side of the digital divide.

        Please, Santa. Bring me a multiple Gb connection for Christmas!

        My local phone company is awful – they can’t maintain a static-free, reliable phone connection, much less provide a high speed internet.

    • Ayanami says:

      We shouldn’t be streaming media? All the commercials keep telling us we can. Maybe they should make sure they can handle the data usage BEFORE selling phones with these features.

  5. SagarikaLumos says:

    No possibility of pointing out the myriad downsides to this new ruling for consumers? That wasn’t exactly a victory even compared to the status quo.

  6. odarkshineo says:

    Sounds like the wireless companies didn’t line as many back pockets as the wired companies…

    • INsano says:

      Most people will have wireless internet in 15-20 years I’d guess. You will then see why VZ and AT&T cared much less about that battle and chose to frame it as a “concession” in this battle. If the carriers investing in it, sell it off(ala Frontier for VZ) or cancel it entirely because it’s “unprofitable” in 15-20 years…what would you do? Well you need internet so you’d subscribe to their wireless wouldn’t you? That wireless that has little regulation or neutrality thanks to the FCC’s nearsightedness.

      Wireless is as important as wired, if not moreso because it will be the internet of the future. If you think Comcast and AT&T and VZ are going to be laying cables to the home in 30 years you’re blind. Wireless.

  7. WiglyWorm must cease and decist says:

    Net Nuetrality rules are a big cop-out. The FCC was afraid that they would have a hard time making anything stick in court, so they went with something that made the broadband carriers happy.

    This still allows (in fact endorses) the “second internet” that net neutrality advocates feared: A seperate network for traffic of 1st party content or paid content. It also allows traffic filtering like Comcast was doing with the torrent protocol, they just have to be more overt about it (overt in this case equalling a disclosure in a policies link in some back corner of their webpage, probably AFTER you’ve signed up).

    It also still allows paid prioritization. The FCC later came out and said they plan to stop paid prioritization… but without passing further regulations I don’t see how this is possible.

    In the eyes of most net neutrality advocates, this is worse than nothing. The FCC has endorsed everything that we were fighting against, but called it neutral? Huh?

    • Hooray4Zoidberg says:

      True it also allows for bandwidth caps and throttling. I’m guessing this recent ruling has something to do with why my Comcast account summary now shows a bandwidth usage meter and how much I’ve used this billing cycle so far. Rather than it being a behind the scenes cap. Perhaps that’s them being more overt.

  8. odarkshineo says:

    and yet companies are touting 4g will replace home network wired connections… this isn’t about where we are today, but where we are GOING.

  9. c!tizen says:

    Timmy: “Daddy, what’s that?”
    Daddy: “That’s a law, Timmy.”
    Timmy: “What’s it for?”
    Daddy: “It’s to protect people and keep things fair.”
    Timmy: “What’s that in the middle?”
    Daddy: “That’s a loophole, son.”
    Timmy: “What does is do?”
    Daddy: “That’s where companies pass their money to politicians through.”

  10. Consumeristing says:

    Why don’t you just pay more if you to be an internet bandwidth hog?

    • Dragon Tiger says:

      Actually, you already are. Perhaps you should pay less if you’re not.

    • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

      What’s a “hog” as you put it? Is your baseline the endless drones of grandmothers that only send e-cards and look up recipies? I’m not trying to be obtuse here, but that is the crux of the issue. I pay 34.00 a month for service that has always been touted as unlimited and I get 12meg service. When I sign up for Hulu and/or Netflix to utilize what I signed up for, am I hogging? or just using what I paid for?

      I know there is a size disparity in country sizes, but why can japan’s norm be 100 meg to the home, and already looking at 1gig to the home? That CAN be done here too. Granted there would be a higher infrastructure cost. The carriers have sat on their haunches reaping massive profits and done little to improve bandwidth available to the end users. Now they are complaining that they can’t keep up in the content/infrastructure race, so the FCC MUST regulate tiering. (when they haven’t even started the race yet).

      The writing has been on the wall for 20 years regarding bandwidth deficiencies. Yet carriers have been lax in addressing it.

      • Consumeristing says:

        Grandma pays less, you pay more. Why would grandma subsidize AtriosFan101’s torrent downloads?

        • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

          Why should I pay more? I entered into a contract with my provider that stated X. Now that they can’t deliver on X for everyone, they want me to pay Y. I’m not asking for more than the X that I originally requested. It’s not like I’m calling up my provider asking why I can’t download 3terabytes in 20 minutes…(something I didn’t originally sign up for)

    • Geekybiker says:

      This has nothing to do with being a bandwidth hog.

      Say I have comcast internet. Comcast wants to start their own video service like netflix. So they tell netflix you need to pony up some cash, or we’ll slow you down. Either netflix pays, which gets passed back to you, the consumer, or they suffer a slower speed. Of course comcast’s competing video service runs at full speed all the time. If they starve netflix of bandwidth, they can make sure that netflix video quality doesn’t look as good, and it has to stop and buffer more often. Even worse is if they goto a pay per gb plan, and the data from netflix counts against your plan, but the comcast video service doesnt.

      So basically this allows your ISP to engage in unfair competition. Its going to end up costing you more for worse service in the end. I means that small companies won’t have a chance to grow big and compete with what big media is doing. They’ll just shut them down and copy anything innovative they do.

      This isn’t about who is using what bandwidth. Its about control. This might as well make the internet just another push media outlet, where the only voices heard are the big corporate ones.

      • sjgarg says:

        This is like Canada’s internet and Bell.

        Netflix came to Canada, so Bell is imposing caps to curbs its use, first they proposed 60GB for everyone, and recent filings with the CRTC it’ll now be 25GB on their lowest speed of 6mbps DSL. Bell has also begun throttling traffic in some areas on port 17XX, for adobe’s real time video which is what Netflix uses for streaming, so Netflix is rendered unwatchable to many.

        All the while Bell’s now offering their brand of IPTV which of course is exempt from the caps and throttling….

        Canada’s internet is doomed.

    • DeepHurting says:

      /facepalm
      Net Neutrality isn’t about metered or capped usage, as I’m sure someone will mention…

      • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

        Facepalm, you don’t understand that is exactly what will happen as a result of this legislation

        • DeepHurting says:

          There was no regulation BEFORE this FCC decision prohibiting providers from capping data usage, and there still isn’t. The only thing that prevented such plans was the torches and pointy pitchforks of broadband customers. Ask a Comcast or Time-Warner customer.

          This has nothing to do with bandwidth “volume”, or Grandmas paying for broadband to send chain emails, it has to do with QoS and data discrimination.

          Please Reference the comments below…

          • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

            Oh I’m not disagreeing. The problem is that the rules were intentionally drafted as an opening, and left intentionally vague as to allow for further future ‘regulation’. Anyone who has researched the origins of the new rules and the people behind the origins of the new rules would be enlightend as to the intent of them.

  11. Geekybiker says:

    Its not a compromise. Its a travesty and an absolute capitulation to the corporate interests. There is no way this ends well for the consumer. This is worse than no ruling.

    • qwickone says:

      +1

    • DeepHurting says:

      It’s a wonderful piece of regulation for the providers.

      “OMG We need to raise rates and add new fees while not improving infrastructure due to all this onerous regulation and interference in teh FREE MARKETS!”

      • not-gonna-tell-ya says:

        It’s even worse than that. More of a trojan horse that looks, as you say so pretty and shiny. Then the other shoe will drop when the decency and morality and truth squads are turned on the end user. Anyone who isn’t flavour of the month will be at risk. I mean look at it now. The govt is already summarily axing web sites that they ‘think’ may be infringing. No due process. The hell with the constitution.

  12. Tim says:

    I can’t believe how the Republicans (and much of the media) are spinning this. They’re saying that Obama is “regulating the Internet,” forcing ISPs to do this and that and that it’ll kill innovation and puppies. They pull out the “if it ain’t broke” line.

    Well, it is broke. Most ISPs just haven’t taken advantage of it being broke … yet. This just restricts them (well, sort of restricts them) from taking advantage of that.

    • cbrillow says:

      Have fun with your Republican-bashing. The real issue for me is that this is another case of government out-of-control. The Supreme Court ruled earlier in the year that the FCC has no jurisdiction over the internet, yet this administration has ignored the ruling and plowed ahead with it, anyway.

      Similarly, after it became clear that Cap & Trade legislation couldn’t pass in Congress, the EPA declared CO2 a pollutant and is poised to take actions that could drastically increase the cost of virtually everything, by enacting policies that greatly increase energy prices.

      I see ‘Net Neutrality’ as the camel’s nose under the tent, and am wary of granting sweeping powers to UNELECTED bureaucrats. The first step is dictating what is ‘fair’. How long will it be before they are also deciding what is ‘appropriate’, and what is ‘news’? This opens the door to control over content, and if you don’t think that’s a goal, you’re woefully under-informed.

      You may be delighted that views that are in opposition to yours may be silenced, but it may be your voice that’s no longer heard at some point in the future. Just remember how swell you thought government inserting itself into the private sector was at the time.

      • ARP says:

        We’re had over 200 years of non-government censorship of media outlets and 20+ years of non-intervention into internet content, but you think the government stating that there should be non-discrimination in internet traffic is the slippery slope into government control of the internet? If we pass a law that says that there will be an open an free market, is that the government taking over the economy? The only reason its being proposed is the Telecoms are doing a crappy job on their service/pricing, are buying content providers, are monopolistic, and are starting to discriminate traffic. If they did the right thing, this wouldn’t be needed.

      • richcreamerybutter says:

        http://www.slideshare.net/stephenmcclelland/session-5-gabrielle-gauthey-communications-regulation-time-to-start-over-2391916

        Government-provided infrastructure is actually better for the free market and competitive pricing (especially for small businesses, which Republicans seem to be using to make their points as they did with 9/11 responders), as you can see here. I guess you have to consider the worst case scenario: do you trust the government over a monopoly or oligopoly?

  13. c!tizen says:

    “Before the F.C.C. meeting even began on Tuesday, the Senate Republican leader, Mitch McConnell, said in a statement that the Internet “should be left alone,” and that his colleagues would “push back against new rules and regulations” next year.”

    a.k.a. Stop pissing off the people paying for my summer home, it’s expensive and I’m running out of ways to charge tax payers for it.

  14. fortymegafonzies says:

    Dear Consumerist,

    We have greatly enjoyed some of your past postings. In order to continue to provide quality service to our customers we will require payment of $100 million to continue to provide them with your fine website.

    Sincerely,
    Verizon

  15. doctor_cos wants you to remain calm says:

    Why does the US continue to trail other countries in technology? “Standard” cell phone networks everywhere but here, cheaper/higher speed broadband, etc., etc.
    You would think that all the money our overlords are taking from us, they’d give us these things to keep us quiet and docile.

    And where’s the “I make my own delicious Net Neutrality at home” comment?

    • ihatephonecompanies says:

      It could be worse… you could be in Canada.

    • jason in boston says:

      You could always ssh into a seedbox into a country without this nonsense, like sweden or the ukraine.

    • Sian says:

      We’re ahead of other countries with similar or larger square mileage, aren’t we?

      Not that there’s many of those.

      • OnePumpChump says:

        Most of the US population lies in areas with comparable density to smaller countries. All that area that makes our averages look so different…most of it is sparsely populated or unpopulated. And communications infrastructure (sometimes all infrastructure) is shit out there.

  16. jason in boston says:

    How about common carrier and just abolishing the local monopolies? If there was competition, then there wouldn’t be a need for these rules.

    • thrillcook says:

      hear hear! harumph harumph

    • daemonaquila says:

      But that would make sense. We couldn’t have that.

    • Sheogorath says:

      Standard service? Sounds like SOCIALISM to me!
      Clearly instead of resorting to evil commie pinko policies like the government doing things, we should rely on the magic free-market fairy to solve all our problems! She can magic a network into existence with her Wand of Capitalism!

      • Consumeristing says:

        It is socialism, and your system doesn’t solve a damn thing. It’s socialism for the sake of socialism.

      • Everett says:

        I have an idea, let’s ask people that lived in Russia during the cold war how socialism worked out for them.

        Then once ice water is dumped all over us, let’s STFU about it being a successful way to handle this issue. Socialism’s primary failure is underproduction. They’d have to nationalize the hardware vendors (Cisco, Juniper, … I’m not going to write this list), chip makers, telecom providers… The government would be in charge of all distribution of information. That scares the HELL out of me.

        The point is, your nonsolution is baked in FAIL.

  17. Dragon Tiger says:

    This is kind of disturbing, since my ISP is a wireless ISP (Clear), yet is faster than my previous wired connection.

  18. macoan says:

    My biggest complaint in the past has always been the company will not tell us what they are blocking – what the limits are – what they are slowing down…..

    So I’m very happy that providers are to detail how they are managing traffic.

  19. Sian says:

    It’s a start.

    I’ll take it.

  20. JlGomez says:

    so what about Comcast BS limit of 250 GB a month of bandwidth .. does this make a difference on that..

  21. larsdad says:

    How is this any different that my paying DirectTV for unlimited TV viewing. Should DirectTV charge me more for watching more TV than my neighbors, or for watching higher priced networks like ESPN more often than others? This has nothing to do my amount of usage and everything to do with who is providing the content and who is getting paid for it.

  22. sjgarg says:

    Before anyone else stats complaining about the FCC and how the big brother shouldn’t be regulating the internet.
    Plain and simple, without any government regulations, the Internet is doomed. Want Proof?
    Canada!

    Right now, Bell is killing the internet here.

    Since 2008, they’ve been allowed to throttle specific traffic, p2p, even on their wholesalers.
    Recently port 17XX for adobe’e video streaming has been throttled making netflix unwatchable to most people. They’ve throttled steam since they use p2p and WoW, Diablo, etc making gaming unplayable. They’ve also been throttling Skype.

    They’ve been allowed to impose caps, even on their wholesalers, at first they wanted 60GB, but now they want 25GB for 6mpbs DSL, with huge overages of 2$/GB up to a max of 60$. They’ve been forced by the CRTC to allow wholesalers access to their faster speeds like 10,15 and 25 mbps DSL, so they’ve filed tariffs where they charge wholesalers absurdly more than their own retail customers to ensure they don’t have to share. At the same time, they’ve changed the tarrif for 6mbps DSL to have the wholesale price literally 0.70$ less than their retail price.
    Basically every indie ISP will be put out of business.

    To top it all off, Bell has started to offer its own IPTV service. Which isn’t throttled and doesn’t count towards your caps…

    It’s a huge conflict of interest to allow one company to be: the ISP, the telephone company, the wireless company, the satellite TV company, the TV station company, the newspaper company…

    The satellite TV and TV station segments of Bell are unhappy that the ISP segment of Bell has been allowing Netflix to get to their customers.

    So if you really don’t want the government to get involved and want the free market to sort itself out, the above will be what happens…

    • Cheap Sniveler: Sponsored by JustAnswer.comâ„¢ says:

      This is why the US broke up the Bell system. Unfortunatly, our government now adores monopolies, and companies have found ways to collude without breaking the law.

  23. OnePumpChump says:

    How many of those commissioners or their families are going to go on to be telecom execs in the near future? Gotta be at least one.

  24. TheGreySpectre says:

    It makes sense to me, Wireless is fixed bandwidth for everyone, wired isnt.

    You can pry my wired connection from my cold dead hands.

  25. deathbecomesme says:

    If you read the actual wording they aren’t saying the ISP “can’t” throttle fixed line customers. They say the ISPs have to use “reasonable network management”. Guess who gets to decide what “reasonable” is?

  26. Hi_Hello says:

    5 years from now. after all the restriction are in place for wireless connection and wire connected are ‘open’. I can imagine that most ISP will offer wireless to most consumer. The only people with wired connect would probably be businesses.

    Maybe sooner… since everyone love wireless and being able to do anything, everywhere. It’s just a matter of time before wireless spend is stable and as fast as wire and it covers the globe.

    Doesn’t matter to me, I can do withouth the internet and I can bum off work’s internet.

  27. HogwartsProfessor says:

    I want my intertubes…I want my Dr Who on Netflix…. Stop messing with mah addiction!