Can the Internet Remain Open for Everyone?


The bottom line is, once you've selected an ISP, other Internet users and online services can reach you only via that ISP. You're not going to change that ISP easily or frequently. And, if ISP discrimination becomes the norm, there will be nowhere for consumers to go to get the open Internet we all want and deserve.

Myth: The FCC rules help some companies at the expense of others. The rules effectively force ISPs to subsidize companies that deliver content and services over the Internet.

Reality: Nobody is getting a break here. On the Internet, everyone pays their way by contracting with some ISP to "get connected." Big users -- typically corporate providers of online content or services -- pay much more than individual subscribers. ISPs then negotiate with other carriers, including "backbone" providers, to route traffic to and from the rest of the Internet.

As a result, every bit of data that ISPs carry is traffic they have previously agreed to carry in contracts negotiated with their subscribers and other carriers. No ISP is forced to carry traffic in excess of what it has already committed to do by contract, and no online content provider gets a free ride. If anything, the new FCC rules prevent subsidization, by ensuring that ISPs cannot demand to "take a cut" whenever some other company wants to do business with the ISPs' subscribers.

Myth: The FCC rules will prevent ISPs from properly maintaining their networks as needed to adjust to technological challenges.

Reality: The FCC rules are flexible enough to permit ISPs to reasonably respond to technical challenges. The rules only bar "unreasonable" discrimination, and they contain an open-ended exception for reasonable network management. In addition, the FCC's order specifically notes that ISP actions to address congestion and bandwidth challenges directly, by charging for or reining in high-volume usage and users, does not violate the rules.

Myth: The FCC rules will discourage investment in broadband networks.

Reality: This myth is rooted in the political rhetoric that any kind of regulation automatically blunts investment, but it is simply not true. The Internet is now central to our lives and demand for it continues to grow, precisely because it offers an open platform for a constantly changing array of innovative new services. ISPs that don't invest in hopes of capturing and controlling that constantly innovating market are only hurting themselves. Moreover, the FCC rules give ISPs flexibility to offer other services in parallel with Internet access service -- and thus to enjoy multiple revenue streams from their investments in their broadband networks.

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