If, as some say, a deal can only be called successful when everyone involved leaves the table unsatisfied, then the net neutrality rules approved at a meeting this morning by the Federal Communications Commission may be a success.
Under the rules, two years in the making, no provider may block another company’s traffic, however, it may offer “faster” access to companies willing to pay more.
Here are the “six key principles” powering the order.
1) Transparency. Consumers and innovators have a right to know the basic performance characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is being managed.
2) No Blocking. A right to send and receive lawful traffic. This prohibits blocking of lawful content, apps, services, and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network
3) Level Playing Field. A right to a level playing field. A ban on unreasonable discrimination. No approval for so-called “pay for priority” arrangements involving fast lanes for some companies but not others.
4) Network Management. An allowance for broadband providers to engage in reasonable network management. These rules don’t forbid providers from offering subscribers tiers of service or charging based on bandwidth consumed.
5) Mobile. Broadly applicable rules requiring transparency for mobile broadband providers, and prohibiting them from blocking websites and certain competitive applications.
6) Vigilance. Creation of an Open Internet Advisory Committee to assist the Commission in monitoring the state of Internet openness and the effects of our rules.
Politico notes the new rules ensure that “[t]raditional wired broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate against any lawful traffic, though no such rule will be put in place for wireless providers.”
On the one hand, those who believe companies have a right to govern how they offer their products to consumers may find this freedom to have been abridged by a government too eager to make new rules. On the other hand are those who see the two-tiered pricing structure as a de facto way to block unwanted traffic by increasing the efficiency of its competitors or simply by making it so slow in relationship to “premium” traffic that it cannot stay in business.
Both the concept of unreasonableness and the wireless exception may be seen by some as loopholes big enough to drive a truck through.
In April a lower court put aside an FCC ruling based on an “informal” attempt to promote net neutrality. It was hoped by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski (and the Democratic commissioners who voted with him) that this would be a light touch, net neutral for the most part and enforceable.
Regardless, it seems unlikely that a minute will pass after the first FCC action on this order before either the access or the content people file their first motions.
Read more ReadWriteWeb coverage of net neutrality.