The Federal Communications Commission has published its long-awaited “net neutrality” rules, designed to generally prevent Internet service providers from giving priority to certain forms of web traffic. The rules go into effect Nov. 20. The commission approved the rules in a 3-2 vote in December 2010.
The rules generally have found support among online retailers who desire to have their content delivered on an equal footing with content from other web sites.
The rules aim to, among other things, prevent telecommunications companies that provide Internet access, such as Verizon Communications Inc., AT&T and Comcast Corp., from favoring any Internet service providers over others when providing the bandwidth that supports heavy use of web content.
For example, Comcast would not be able to provide more bandwidth to its own web properties, or to other preferred sites, for downloading video content than it provides to other video sites, says Bill McClellan, director of government affairs for the Electronic Retailing Association, a trade group for retailers that sell via TV and the Internet.
The FCC summarizes the rules into three parts:
●Transparency: Fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of their broadband services.
● No blocking: Broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; and mobile broadband providers may not block lawful web sites.
● No unreasonable discrimination: Broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.
“This framework thus provides greater certainty and predictability to consumers, innovators, investors, and broadband providers, as well as the flexibility providers need to effectively manage their networks,” the FCC says.
The net neutrality issue, however, may not be settled, as it has put telecommunications companies at odds with web content companies. Verizon and other companies, McLellan says, have said they might challenge the rules in court after they became official.