Net neutrality is here... for now

Perhaps the biggest difference now that the FCC’s Open Internet rules are in effect is the ability of consumers to complain directly to the FCC if they believe the new rules are being broken.

Photo by Job Wise
Perhaps the biggest difference now that the FCC’s Open Internet rules are in effect is the ability of consumers to complain directly to the FCC if they believe the new rules are being broken.



The FCC’s net neutrality rules went into effect last Friday, but most internet users are unlikely to notice any changes.

The new rules ban internet service providers from blocking or throttling traffic or from giving paid prioritization to some internet traffic over others.

Internet providers are the gatekeepers of the internet, providing access to content for customers. Some of them also provide content to customers.

In the past, some internet providers have used their gatekeeper status to control access to websites or limit competition. Verizon blocked Google Wallet, AT&T blocked video chatting apps and Comcast slowed down file-sharing services. In each case, the FCC used existing rules to make the companies stop acting in bad faith.

In order to prevent future similar abuses, the FCC created the Open Internet order. It classifies the internet as a common carrier under Title II of the 1934 Telecommunications Act, but uses only a fraction of the rules under the act that prevent “unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services.”

In short, the order says that internet providers may not block any legal content. They also cannot slow down, or throttle, traffic on the basis of content. And they cannot create special paid fast lanes that degrade other traffic.

The order also requires internet providers with more than 100,000 subscribers to disclose promotional rates, fees, surcharges and data caps. Providers also must give users notice of network management practices that might affect their service.

Most consumers will see no difference in their service. There is now, however, an option on the FCC’s website to complain if a person believes their internet service provider is intentionally breaking the rules.

Complaints can be filed at fcc.gov/complaints by clicking on the “File Complaint” link under the internet icon. When filling out the form, users need to select “Open Internet/Net Neutrality” in the “Internet Issues” selection box.

Despite the rules going into effect last Friday, there is still doubt that they will remain in effect. The major internet service providers are still fighting against the common carrier classification in court, and there is a small possibility the U.S. Congress will step in and attempt to create its own set of rules.



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