FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is circulating newly-minted draft rules for regulation of the Internet. He proposes to use some old-school utility regulation to keep the large infrastructure companies (read: cable and phone companies, like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T) from slowing down content on the Internet for their own competitive and monetary advantage.
What this means in a practical sense is that companies like Comcast, which own the coaxial cable into people’s homes, wouldn’t be allowed to intentionally slow down video streaming services like Netflix or Hulu – which would be a win for consumers’ freedom of choice and freedom to surf. On the other hand, it also delays infrastructure companies’ return on investment to build the “plant” delivering broadband to consumers — which could result in a slower introduction of new services or upgrades to existing services.
All is Not Settled For Net Neutrality
Over the next few weeks, the five FCC commissioners will study and tweak the proposed net neutrality rules. The commissioners are expected to vote on the final rules on February 26. Due to the political make-up of the commission (3 Democrats and 2 Republicans), the rules proposed by Wheeler, who is a Democrat appointed by President Obama, will likely pass. After that, the fight will shift to the courts – and probably take years to resolve completely.
Who are the Winners and Losers This Round?
Winners: Content Providers, Consumers
Losers: Internet Service Providers