The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Tuesday (Dec. 21) passed a set of controversial Net neutrality rules that aims to give everyone equal access to the Web. However, the rules have been under massive scrutiny, and critics say they don't actually achieve this goal.
Whether the Internet is being accessed by large companies or small independent operators, the issue is that high-speed Internet providers should treat everyone the same when it comes to free access to the Web's speed and availability.
Consider this: If fixed-line providers started allowing big companies the chance to pay for faster service, this would ultimately drag down the service to smaller operators and could potentially hurt those businesses. (No one wants to wait around for pages to load, so consumers will move on to other sites.)
Internet service providers such as Comcast and Verizon want to offer premium and privileged online access to those that can afford it. The FCC has the power to issue regulations that protect net neutrality, but digital advocacy groups say the rules that passed Tuesday do not accomplish this. Broadband access will now have more rules, but the new regulations won't affect wireless in the same way.
"The FCC didn't make the new rules as comprehensive as they should," Art Brodsky, communications director of Public Knowledge, a Washington, D.C.-based public interest advocacy organization dedicated to promoting the public interest in access to information, told TechNewsDaily.
"It doesn't take care of the concerns that were there to begin with -- giving everyone equal opportunity on the Web. Instead, it is protecting the line-providers and not the wireless users."
Under the new rules Internet providers would have the power to make a certain site go very slow for consumers.
"Imagine if you go to a site to download a movie and it's taking forever, so you move on to another site that is working much faster," Brodsky said. "You would be more likely to stay on that site instead. That is simply not fair."
Gigi Sohn, president and co-founder of Public Knowledge, also expressed her disappointment with the announcement Tuesday.
"The Federal Communications Commission's actions on Net Neutrality fell far short of what they could have accomplished," Sohn said. "The Commission could have established clear rules that would give more protections to Internet users than the one approved today. Instead, these rules will be subject to manipulation by telephone and cable companies. The Commission will have to be very serious about the enforcement of these rules in order for them to succeed."
According to Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., in a Huffington Post article, and again detailed in front of the FCC Tuesday, mobile networks such AT&T and Verizon Wireless would have the ability to shut off access to content or applications for any reason.
"For instance, Verizon could prevent you from accessing Google Maps on your phone, forcing you to use their own mapping program, Verizon Navigator, even if it costs money to use and isn't nearly as good," Franken said. "Or a mobile provider with a political agenda could prevent you from downloading an app that connects you with the Obama campaign (or, for that matter, a Tea Party group in your area)."
The FCC voted in favor by 3:2, but there are court challenges expected to follow.