After five long years of debate, lobbying and political posturing, the FCC finally voted yesterday to begin crafting net neutrality rules. With differing opinions across the board as to what this means to the Internet, privacy and the businesses affected — the question is, what does this mean for you?
The proposed rules would restrict how broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast manage their networks, so that users could send and receive any legal or legitimate content over the Internet without worrying whether it’s going to be blocked or slowed down by the service provider. Comcast, for instance, actively interfered with file sharing online, controlling what kind of traffic and data could use its bandwidth and giving priority to some types of content and traffic while slowing down other traffic.
The FCC determined Comcast had gone too far, and the new rules will mean providers must become more and more like “dumb pipes,” with little leeway to shape the Internet’s traffic flow. Net neutrality also aims to prevent Comcast, Verizon and other service providers from being able to control Internet pipes to favor their content over content created by their competitors or demanding high fees for performance when a competitor’s content is requested.
It matters because the ban will allow small and midsized businesses unimpeded access to the Internet to send and receive legal and legitimate data across the Web, ensuring performance during their use of services from companies like Salesforce.com and Google. Large providers such as Comcast and Verizon will not be allowed to slow file transfers or favor their own Web apps or even email applications over competitors’.
Since corporations like Comcast have their hands in many different business areas, that was a real threat: Comcast could potentially block smaller, less widely known competitors from sending and receiving data or even simply reduce, for example, the performance of Google Docs — preventing healthy competition.
Net neutrality will allow Google Docs, an unknown startup and Microsoft to all compete on the same grounds without Comcast picking a winner and favoring it.
While the counterarguments fear for the stifling of innovation and heavy-handed government involvement with the privacy of the users, the proposed rules could potentially put (or keep) smaller organizations on the same footing as larger corporations.