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Fears over net neutrality as FCC rules on disclosure eased

By Bill Camarda, Sophos

March 01, 2017

This is the way net neutrality ends / Not with a bang but a whimper.

With apologies to TS Eliot, we report on the US Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) ruling to exempt internet service providers with fewer than 250,000 subscribers from having to tell you how they “play favorites” with the data you stream or download.

It’s been three years since net neutrality was a cause célèbre, so the debate is worth a quick review. (Feel free to skip the next paragraph if you haven’t forgotten.)

We’ll draw on The Internet Society’s measured explanation:

Some commentators worry that network operators [can] give preferred treatment to certain data streams. Others are concerned that practices meant to increase revenues might block competing content or give unfair advantage to some content over others. They see these practices as problematic, especially when the practices intentionally discriminate against certain kinds of content delivery… [jeopardizing] the open and transparent principles of the Internet.

In other words, some ideas might be disadvantaged through slow delivery, just because the folks with those ideas couldn’t or wouldn’t pay an ISP to speed them to you.

In 2014, according to Public Knowledge, more than 4m public comments were sent to the FCC in support of treating all traffic equally, aka “net neutrality”. After lengthy debate, the Obama-era FCC agreed. Free-market conservative Ajit Pai, then in the minority, issued a scathing 67-page dissent, arguing that net neutrality responded to “anecdote, hypothesis, and hysteria… not just a solution in search of a problem—it’s a government solution that creates a real-world problem.”

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