The Federal Communications Commission is taking a second crack at creating regulations to enforce net neutrality, the principle that all internet traffic — no matter what it is or where it came from — should be treated equally. With its first rules, the 2010 Open Internet Order, struck down in court in early 2014, the FCC has begun to create new regulations based on different legal grounds that it hopes will give it proper authority to enforce them.But those new legal grounds have put net neutrality in jeopardy. Under the updated regulations' allegedly necessary new legal standard, internet service providers will be allowed to let some companies or services access an internet fast lane for a fee so long as they make the deal on "commercially reasonable" terms.What exactly does "commercially reasonable" mean? Well, for now, the FCC doesn't quite know: it suggests it could simply mean giving priority access to a life-saving medical device, but neutrality advocates worry that this will open the door to a much broader tiered internet, where service providers force big companies into paying up for good speeds and leave everyone else stuck in the slow lane.The new rules began circulating the FCC in April 2014 and were approved by an internal vote in May. From there, the new regulations will enter a public comment phase to help the FCC draft its final rules — in particular, it says it wants feedback on what's commercially reasonable and what legal authority it should be using to keep the internet open. It's hoping to have the new rules instated by the end of 2014.
Jan 2, 2015
FCC chair Tom Wheeler hopes to vote on a new net neutrality proposal in February. The Washington Post reports that Wheeler is planning to internally distribute an updated version of the Open Internet rules he's been working on for almost a year, with the goal of getting them passed in a February 26th meeting; an FCC spokesperson confirmed to The Verge that Wheeler would indeed circulate an order next month. There's no clue as to what these rules might entail, but the Post paraphrases analysts and officials close to the FCC, saying that Wheeler is planning "far more aggressive regulation" than he originally proposed.Read Article >
Nov 10, 2014
Obama's loose four-point proposal is a boon to most net neutrality supporters: he's asking for broadband to be classified as a Title II common carrier, putting it in the same category as telephone service. Not only would the plan revive bans on ISPs blocking content, it would also prevent them from slowing down some services or speeding up others — the so-called "fast lanes" that have become a primary point of contention in this debate. It would extend net neutrality protections, in some cases, to the backbone connections between services like Netflix and ISPs, not just ISPs and consumers. It even asks for the rules to apply to mobile broadband as much as possible, a major shift away from the laissez-faire policies in the 2010 Open Internet Order. To forestall critics, it allows for what's known as "forbearance," a process in which the FCC chooses not to enforce certain parts of Title II.Read Article >
But as Obama himself admits, this isn't his call to make. The FCC is currently drafting its net neutrality proposals, and he has no control over how its five commissioners ultimately vote. After taking both houses of Congress in the midterm elections, Republicans are poised to overrule the FCC and ban net neutrality regulation. In this climate, what can a speech from the President actually do?
Sep 16, 2014
Net neutrality advocates have been deeply concerned about the new proposal. Though the proposal is meant to protect net neutrality — the idea that all internet traffic, no matter what it is or where it's coming from, should be treated equally — it would actually undermine it, allowing internet providers to create so-called fast lanes that might give an edge to companies that can afford to pay. Advocates would instead like to see the commission reclassify broadband as a utility, thus subjecting it to tighter regulations. Based on an automated analysis of just over 800,000 comments, the Sunlight Foundation believes that two-thirds of initial comments supported that reclassification.Read Article >
Now that the commenting period has closed, the commission will look through the comments and is supposed to factor their thoughts into a final set of rules for net neutrality. Whatever it decides will likely have dramatic implications for the future of the internet. There's no specific timeline for when we should expect to hear on the agency's decision, but commission chair Tom Wheeler has said that he'd like to put new rules in place as soon as possible to replace the rules that were struck down earlier this year.
Sep 12, 2014
It’s Wednesday afternoon on Tumblr, and the internet is in a perpetual loading state. Starting early in the morning, users have been greeted with a cluster of spinning wheels in place of the normal dashboard. “Make it stop,” says a button at the top. Click it, and Mark Ruffalo will explain to you in a video why the FCC (represented whimsically by stock footage of Santa Claus) needs to stop cable companies (a man in a sweater and hard hat) from slowing down the internet (an exploding Earth, covered with a loading sign). Other sites have their own banners, glitchy videos, and explanations of why they’re joining the Battle for the Net — an attempt to get Congress and the FCC to ban “fast lane” deals between web services and broadband companies. By definition, every fast lane creates a slow lane, so protesters have coalesced around the loading “wheel of death” to symbolize the effect.Read Article >
But back at Tumblr’s New York headquarters, the issue isn’t quite settled yet. “Are we aestheticizing this loader?” muses designer Zack Sultan. “Are we aestheticizing the iconography of our persecutors?”
Sep 10, 2014
Are you planning on watching some movies tonight on Netflix? Or posting a photo to Tumblr? Or backing a crowdfunded project? You're going to see a lot of spinning wheels. As fall elections heat up and the FCC prepares to close the public comment period on its Open Internet proposal, a cluster of major sites and a number of more minor ones are urging visitors to contact Congress and the FCC and express support for reclassifying broadband internet under the "common carrier" rules that govern phone service and other utilities. This isn't the only net neutrality-related proposal on the table, but it's one that could successfully block internet service providers from providing "fast lanes" to sites that pay more, something FCC chair Tom Wheeler has considered allowing within "commercially reasonable" bounds.Read Article >
Supporters of that proposal argue that ISPs won't be able to degrade overall quality but can experiment with new tiers of service and business models. To people taking part in the day of action, though, speeding some services up could automatically relegate other parts of the internet to a "slow lane" where ISPs have less incentive to improve quality. And if the new net neutrality rules can't survive a legal challenge (as the last set couldn't), they could theoretically even degrade quality of service. Hence today's protest — if the web gets more data-intensive but internet quality is no longer evenly distributed, the idea goes, you could be seeing a lot more buffering.
Sep 8, 2014
A good number of politicians have recently made statements in favor of net neutrality, but House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi is going further than most of them today and asking that the Federal Communications Commission reclassify broadband as a utility using Title II of the Communications Act — exactly what net neutrality advocates have been pushing for. In a letter to FCC chair Tom Wheeler, Pelosi writes that Title II is "an appropriate tool to refine modern rules," and that it can do so without the FCC overburdening broadband providers.Read Article >
The reason that the FCC is currently amid this whole internet "fast lane" debacle is that it's chosen to regulate internet providers using a less stringent allowance in the Communications Act. Though the commission could go ahead and use Title II — allowing it to impose more significant regulations and avoid fast lanes — it would be a politically tricky move that would upset internet giants who have a large lobbying force in Washington. The FCC is currently accepting public comments on its proposal to use the method that would allow for fast lanes, and advocates are looking for it to change course.
Sep 4, 2014
As the FCC prepares to close public comments on its net neutrality proposal, major internet companies are organizing a protest to raise awareness. Reddit, Etsy, Foursquare, Kickstarter, Mozilla, Namecheap, Vimeo, and others will observe next Wednesday — September 10th — as a day of action, during which they'll showcase net neutrality issues on their sites and drive visitors to contact the FCC, Congress, and the White House. The protest, like many previous, smaller ones, warns of a potential "internet fast lane," in which ISPs and online services could reach deals for better service and leave the rest of the web behind. Among other things, sites will post banners that mimic a loading wheel to dramatize what a slowed-down internet could look like.Read Article >
Several banners and widgets have been posted ahead of time by Battle for the Net, a project backed by Fight for the Future, Demand Progress (founded by the late internet activist Aaron Swartz), and other nonprofit organizations. While there's not much information on the banners themselves, Battle for the Net backs one of the most popular options for preserving net neutrality: reclassifying broadband under the Title II common carrier laws that regulate phone service. The original Open Internet rules, set in place under the watch of former FCC chair Julius Genachowski, were struck down earlier this year after a judge ruled that the core principles, like stopping ISPs from blocking or degrading the quality of services, treated companies like Verizon too much like common carriers.
Aug 16, 2014
The US Federal Communications Commission is giving people nearly a week more to weigh in Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal for a new net neutrality framework. Today the FCC said people have until September 15th (a month from now) to reply to comments made by others as part of an earlier phase that wrapped up July 18th. The previous deadline (September 10th) would have given people a month, however the FCC's site was slammed in the beginning of the process and unable to handle the influx of traffic, causing the original public comment deadline to get pushed back.Read Article >
Jul 25, 2014
Do you know who's not a fan of the Federal Communication Commission's proposal to let internet service providers offer different speeds to online services? Major League Baseball. In a letter to the FCC last week, the league's digital group argued that the most recent open internet proposal could do more harm than good to consumers and upstart businesses, and likened the move to "rolling the dice."Read Article >
Jul 16, 2014
Netflix filed a comment with the FCC yesterday strongly condemning the commission's new net neutrality proposal, which would allow internet service providers to offer so-called "fast lanes" to companies that can afford them. "No rules would be better than rules legalizing discrimination on the internet," Netflix writes in a lengthy reply to the FCC. Netflix argues that the new rules will turn the goal of an open internet "on its head," making the internet look more like the convoluted and stagnating cable TV landscape than the innovative and quickly developing platform that we've come to see the internet as.Read Article >
Allowing internet fast lanes, Netflix argues, would let service providers choose which websites, companies, and apps succeed online, rather than allowing consumers to choose as they do now. Netflix believes that the FCC's proposal will effectively given internet service providers control over what their subscribers can and cannot see online.
Jul 15, 2014
The Federal Communications Commission has been calling on the public to provide comments on its controversial net neutrality proposal, and it said today that it would actually be extending the length of the comment period by several days to ensure that all interested parties are able to submit their remarks. The initial net neutrality comment period was supposed to end today, but the commission is now extending it until midnight on Friday, July 18th.Read Article >
"Not surprisingly, we have seen an overwhelming surge in traffic on our website that is making it difficult for many people to file comments through our Electronic Comment Filing System," FCC press secretary Kim Hart says in a statement. "Please be assured that the commission is aware of these issues and is committed to making sure that everyone trying to submit comments will have their views entered into the record."
Jul 11, 2014
Over half a million Americans have shared their feelings on net neutrality with the FCC as the commission ponders new rules that could drastically reshape the internet. Earlier this afternoon, Chairman Tom Wheeler reported that the FCC has so far received around 647,000 comments as the July 15th deadline for initial feedback approaches. The commission will then accept responses to those comments into the month of September. At best, a final decision on the controversial net neutrality proposal isn't expected until near the end of this year. "Keep your input coming," Wheeler tweeted today.Read Article >
May 15, 2014
Because you should hear Chairman Tom Wheeler and the FCC Commissioners in their own words — and then make sure they hear yours.Read Article >
The Federal Communications Commission has published the controversial new net neutrality proposal that it approved earlier today, finally allowing the public to read the policy in full. Though there's been a healthy debate up until this point, the full proposal hadn't actually been published outside of the FCC — rather, once detail leaked outside of the commission that its new proposal would leave room for service providers to create internet "fast lanes," the agency began explaining more and more about what the public should expect to see from it.Read Article >
Changes are said to have been made since the controversy around it began last month, but the core tenets are still there, including the introduction of a "commercially reasonable" standard to determine when service providers can prioritize some internet traffic over another. Fortunately for net neutrality advocates, the proposal isn't final just yet: it now enters into a lengthy public comment period that will end in September, after which the commission will draw on those comments to create its final rules.
The Federal Communications Commission approved a proposal for a controversial set of new net neutrality rules this morning that advocates say could undermine the very principals that they set out to support by introducing so-called "fast lanes" to the internet. The rules aren't set in stone just yet, however: as the FCC has been reiterating for the past month, what it was voting to approve today was only a draft, and public comments received over the coming weeks will factor into what the final rules look like. The commission is even running a particularly long commenting period this time around given the outcry over and importance of the proposal.Read Article >
In particular, the commission is seeking comment on its controversial new standard for allowing ISPs to create a fast lane. Companies will be allowed to create fast lanes so long as they do so in a "commercially reasonable" manner, but what exactly defines a commercially reasonable manner isn't clear yet and, theoretically, will be influenced by citizens' comments. Though it would mean a big change from the proposal, the commission is also asking whether fast lanes should simply be banned outright.
May 15, 2014
The FCC has voted to accept Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal for a new net neutrality framework, kicking off a longer rule-making process that will conclude in the next several months. And while the new proposal has been amended from an earlier, more controversial text, it leaves open the question of internet "fast lanes," an issue that many see as fundamentally undermining net neutrality.Read Article >
The new proposal builds on the 2010 Open Internet Order that was struck down earlier this year, but it's seeking comment on a number of issues that have proved central to the net neutrality debate. Broadband providers would have to hold to a minimum level of quality for any service, but otherwise, they're only required to adhere to "commercially reasonable" standards. The agency is asking for comment on what those standards should be, including whether ISPs should be barred from allowing companies to pay for better service. It's also attempting to create oversight for companies, proposing an ombudsperson who would represent internet users and investigate possible violations of the order. Wireless broadband providers have long been held to looser standards than wired ones, but the proposal encourages reevaluating this.
May 14, 2014
Tomorrow, the FCC starts deciding the future of the internet. It’s an emotional, controversial, drawn-out battle that has been building for years, pitting some of the biggest internet providers in the world against the government, American citizens, and virtually every denizen of the web.Read Article >
At issue is how (or if) the FCC will protect the internet’s openness, free of special treatment and data “fast lanes” offered to the highest bidders. And while Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, and others have been clamoring to prevent heavy regulation from being considered this week, it turns out that communications providers have actually been working the system for years, using exactly this kind of regulation to their advantage. In fact, strict FCC rules have helped Verizon build a largely unregulated network — a network that’s valued in the tens of billions of dollars.
May 13, 2014
The nation's biggest telecommunications providers, including Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Time Warner Cable, are urging the FCC to ignore the growing outcry to reclassify and regulate the internet as a public utility. The cable companies instead want FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to stick to his original plan, one that would avoid that Title II reclassification of the internet and allow ISPs to charge other companies for increased speed on their networks — a move widely viewed as something that would tear down the fundamental principles of net neutrality.Read Article >
"In recent days, we have witnessed a concerted publicity campaign by some advocacy groups seeking sweeping government regulation that conflates the need for an open Internet with the purported need to reclassify broadband Internet access services as Title II telecommunications services subject to common carrier regulation," the ISPs write in today's letter (PDF). "As demonstrated repeatedly, the future of the open internet has nothing to do with Title II regulation, and Title II has nothing to do with the open Internet. As it did in 2010, the commission should categorically reject efforts to equate the two once and for all."
May 13, 2014
In a letter addressed to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, celebrity performers including Mark Ruffalo and Eddie Vedder called for the commission to issue new rules that protect net neutrality. "As members of this community," the letter reads, "we urge the Federal Communications Commission to protect the open internet as a vehicle for free expression and collaboration."Read Article >
May 12, 2014
The Wall Street Journal reports that the head of the Federal Communications Commission, Tom Wheeler, is revising the commission's proposal to regulate broadband internet in response to enormous public outcry. The WSJ says the altered report will offer "assurances that the agency won't allow companies to segregate web traffic into fast and slow lanes," but may not appease the huge number of people who feel the FCC's plans will allow internet service providers to dictate consumer web usage.Read Article >
FCC officials told The Wall Street Journal that the revised proposal would aim to stop large internet providers such as Comcast from brokering deals with content companies on special terms, and would seek comment on whether "paid prioritization" — when broadband providers slow access to nonpaying companies' sites and services — should be banned. Also reportedly added to the draft proposal is new language designed to protect companies that require internet access, and a new ombudsman who will advocate on behalf of startups in disputes, with "significant enforcement authority."
May 9, 2014
Earlier this week, many of the biggest technology companies on the planet sent a letter to FCC chairman Tom Wheeler arguing strongly in favor of an open internet, something that the commission claims it wants to protect despite a potentially disastrous proposal scheduled for consideration next week. Now, Wheeler has issued a direct response, saying "my commitment to protect and preserve the open internet remains steadfast." Wheeler's letter, published by The Washington Post, also reaffirms his plan to "use every power at our disposal" to keep the internet from being divided "between the 'haves' and 'have nots.'"Read Article >
Of course, this is the same rhetoric that Wheeler has been espousing despite the concerns from corporations, politicians, and even other FCC commissioners. Earlier today, 10 US senators called for Wheeler to remove the controversial "fast lane" provision in the upcoming net neutrality proposal, the same concern that led companies like Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Netflix, and Facebook to pen their official complaint earlier this week. The proposal officially comes up for review next Thursday, May 15th.
May 9, 2014
10 US senators have joined the growing chorus of critics calling for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to eliminate the "fast lane" provision in his revised net neutrality proposal. In a letter addressed to Wheeler, the senators warn that such an inclusion could cause drastic and permanent harm to the internet. "Small businesses, content creators and Internet users must not be held hostage by an increasingly consolidated broadband industry," the letter says. Wheeler's net neutrality proposal, which the FCC will vote on May 15th, would allow ISPs to charge web companies "commercially reasonable" rates for improved access to consumers.Read Article >
The letter — signed by senators Ron Wyden, Al Franken, Charles Schumer, Elizabeth Warren, Edward Markey, and others — advises that new net neutrality policies will only be a positive development if the FCC "can craft meaningful rules." "The current internet is a free market of products and ideas unparalleled in human history, and the FCC must preserve the type of internet access that allows that marketplace to thrive." Rules that allow internet providers to set up tolls and prioritize traffic would "eradicate" net neutrality according to the members of Congress. And they're using a popular argument that others have used to slam Wheeler's plan: "any time one group of packets is favored on an IP network, the rest of the traffic is, by default, discriminated against." The senators say that the FCC still has time to right the ship, but insist "consumers and innovators can not afford to wander through this regulatory murk any longer."
May 8, 2014
Would it be possible to build the next YouTube or the next Netflix if big ISPs like Comcast and Verizon were allowed to charge companies for a "fast lane" that privileged their data? That has been a major concern for tech investors and entrepreneurs ever since the FCC lost its court battle with Verizon back in January. Today a group of leading venture capitalists published an open letter to the FCC calling on them to prevent what they say would be the end of net neutrality and a crippling blow to young startups.Read Article >
"If established companies are able to pay for better access speeds or lower latency, the internet will no longer be a level playing field," they write. "Startups with applications that are advantaged by speed (such as games, video, or payment systems) will be unlikely to overcome that deficit no matter how innovative their service."
May 7, 2014
A sizable coalition of technology companies has today taken a stand in favor of net neutrality in the form of a letter to the Federal Communications Commission. The group, led by giants including Amazon, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, and Yahoo, challenges a proposal the FCC is considering that threatens net neutrality.Read Article >
While the letter does not explicitly mention a course of action — like calling on the FCC to regulate internet service providers as utilities — the coalition strongly espouses the benefits of an open internet. "The Commission's long-standing commitment and actions undertaken to protect the open internet are a central reason why the internet remains an engine of entrepreneurship and economic growth," the group writes. "This Commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that the internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce so that America continues to lead the world in technology markets."
May 7, 2014
FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel thinks her colleagues need to hold off in deciding net neutrality's fate rather than stick to Chairman Tom Wheeler's aggressive timeline for enacting new rules. Appearing at a Chief Officers of State Library Agencies meeting today, Rosenworcel pointed to passionate feedback from Americans in recent weeks as evidence that the FCC needs to take its time in reviewing new rules that will have a profound effect on the internet.Read Article >
"I have real concerns about FCC Chairman Wheeler’s proposal on network neutrality—which is before the agency right now," she said. Gaining Rosenworcel's support will be essential if Wheeler hopes to be successful with his revised neutrality rules. In particular, Rosenworcel takes issue with Wheeler's desire to push new open internet conditions through by the end of 2014. "While I recognize the urgency to move ahead and develop rules with dispatch, I think the greater urgency comes in giving the American public opportunity to speak right now, before we head down this road," she said.