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FCC Schedules Crucial Net Neutrality Vote

| 1 Dec 2010 18:28
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The FCC plans to vote on an updated internet neutrality proposal which could hold sweeping consequences for how we access online content.

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has finally announced its plan to vote on a net neutrality proposal that would provide a set of rules to internet service providers on how they can regulate their networks. The FCC's five commissioners, including Chairman Julius Genachowski, will take the vote on Genachowski's proposal on December 21.

Genachowski calls the vote an "important milestone" in the organization's effort to protect the freedom of the internet. The battle over net neutrality has been heated, with everyone from government officials to mega-corporations like Google laying out how they want the government to guard the internet's operation.

One of the more prominent net neutrality issues as of late was between Comcast and the FCC. Comcast was throttling the network speeds of BitTorrent users, and the FCC challenged that the company wasn't allowed to do that. Though a court ruled that the FCC had no right to hand down a network management enforcement action in April 2010, the agency still believes it has the power to keep the internet free.

The idea behind net neutrality is to stop ISPs from slowing down certain kinds of traffic. Without net neutrality, it's possible that a company could pay an ISP like Comcast to speed up their internet traffic on its network, while Comcast could slow down traffic to websites not on a certain list or that it deems unworthy. If World of Warcraft traffic became too troublesome, in theory it could give gamers a laggy experience.

Genachowski's proposal would require ISPs to divulge how they are regulating their networks, i.e. engage in "meaningful transparency." If an ISP throttles BitTorrent, it would have to let consumers know. It would also "prohibit the blocking of lawful content, apps, services, and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network." If you want to access Yahoo instead of Google, an ISP cannot block you from doing so just because a Yahoo executive called that ISP's CEO a "smelly head."

In addition, the proposal prevents "unreasonable discrimination" in the transmission of such lawful traffic. The consumers attempting to visit Yahoo must not have their network speeds slowed down to favor other businesses. Genachowski awesomely states: "No central authority, public or private, should have the power to pick which ideas or companies win or lose on the internet." However, Genachowski recognizes that ISPs must be able to reasonably manage their networks against harmful and unwanted traffic to reduce congestion.

The proposal doesn't place many protections on wireless networks other than basic "no blocking" and transparency rules, but it promises to keep watch on the growing spectrum in the future. All of Genachowski's ideas sound fair and may be required to prevent a future where the internet's doorways are all guarded by internet doormen. The FCC apparently has a legal response to the court's allegation that it has no right to put regulations on ISPs, but will likely remain silent until closer to December 21. Whether or not the FCC can successfully put these regulations in place seems to hinge on that response.

Source: PC Magazine

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