With the FCC set to release a proposal for new net neutrality regulations to the public on May 15th, concerns about maintaining an open Internet have once again resurfaced.
Net neutrality is the idea that any information traveling across the Internet should be treated the same, regardless of its content, source, or destination. A January Federal appeals court ruling struck down anti-blocking and anti-discriminiation portions of the FCC’s Open Internet Order, which prevents Internet Service Providers from giving preferential treatment to content providers like Google or Netflix. The FCC may introduce rules that allow ISPs to sell faster service to those types of content providers.
“Because ISPs are businesses, they’re saying, ‘maybe we can get some money out of these content providers to be able to then hopefully sink back into upgrading the infrastructure so that the internet works better for everyone.’ If they’re building new links between the ISP and the data provider, I don’t expect there to be a problem,” said David Gomillion, Assistant Professor of Information Systems. “If they’re using the links that are already there, and they’re constraining what can and can’t be done over those links, then that creates a problem, because then that’s prioritizing data and preventing access to other data.”
Internet rules are complicated both by the patchwork of regulations attempting to protect content providers, ISPs, and consumers simultaneously, and by the global nature of the network.
“It’s a philosophical question,” Gomillion added. “It’s more philosophy than it is specific technology or policy. It’s so much bigger, and I think we as a world, we as the people of the world who really are the power of the Internet, we haven’t decided what to do with this thing yet. We have this interesting mix of an international good that can’t be regulated, but every country agrees that it needs to be in some way.”
Any new FCC rules introduced next month will have to go through a long process of public comment and expert scrutiny before being enacted.