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The Battle Over Net Neutrality Heats Up

The Battle Over Net Neutrality Heats Up

The Battle Over Net Neutrality Heats Up

The Battle Over Net Neutrality Heats Up

On March 12th, the FCC released its declaratory ruling and order on Net Neutrality. Net Neutrality is a politically charged topic that pits Internet service providers (ISPs) against the FCC over the issue that ISPs should enable that same access to all content and applications without discrimination.

A lot of the controversy regarding Net Neutrality has been sparked by streaming video providers and applications like Netflix. According to Waterloo, Ontario based Sandvine corporation, Netflix continues to dominate North American networks, accounting for 34.9% of downstream traffic in peak evening hours. Amazon Instant Video is the second largest paid streaming video service in North America, accounting for 2.6% of downstream traffic. HBO GO, which accounts for just 1% of downstream traffic in the US, deserves a notable mention. The service is one to keep an eye on, as it plans to start offering a standalone streaming service in the US. Also, free streaming providers account for a large percentage of traffic with YouTube accounting for 13.2% of total peak downstream traffic.

ISPs, cable companies in particular, have been gating Netflix traffic in order to force the company into negotiations to pay for faster delivery because it utilizes such a large percentage of ISP bandwidth.

Proponents of Net Neutrality

Proponents of Net Neutrality argue that ISPs shouldn’t have the power to discriminate and that end-users should be able to use the bandwidth however they choose as long as it’s legal. The advocates for Net Neutrality are concerned that ISPs, in particular the large telecommunications and cable companies, can abuse their power and limit competition for competing services. As an example, cable companies like Comcast and Time Warner, who are also broadband ISPs, could limit competition by not allowing companies like Netflix to deliver their services over the cable company networks without additional fees. Also, companies like AT&T and Verizon could limit competing services like Google Voice. The concern is that the ISPs will favor their own services over others and limit competition.

Anti-Net Neutrality

Those against the concept of Net Neutrality argue that ISPs should be able to charge for services that consume more bandwidth and that giving differential treatment to services isn’t a bad thing, but a necessity. In order for the ISPs to continue to expand their broadband capabilities they argue that they should be able to charge for those services that consume the most bandwidth on their networks.

The Anti-Net Neutrality groups are also generally against the idea of regulating the Internet. They believe that cable companies and telecom companies should be able to compete freely, without government regulation, and that competition will force them to provide competitively priced services.

Regardless of which camp you fall into, the ruling, order and impending inclusion of Internet access to the public utility governance model will not take an unfettered path. The telecommunications and cable companies have already assembled legal resources to challenge Net Neutrality in the courts. The FCC’s attempts to regulate Internet access in the past (2008 and 2010) were unsuccessful as a result of a rash of legal challenges. Lastly, the Supreme Court ruled that the Internet is not a public utility in its interpretation of the Telecommunications act of 1996, which was intended to promote competition.

For more information you can visit the FCC website http://www.fcc.gov/openinternet.