Yesterday, a major decision passed through the FCC as it voted on new rules that will govern the sticky issue of net neutrality in the US. Net neutrality has been a wildly debated subject for years, with everyone from content web sites, Internet providers, wired and wireless networks, and organizations representing end users being all over the map on this subject. Some wanted the government to pass new regulations that would prevent Internet providers from say, slowing down your access to Netflix just because they have their own video site that they want you to use instead. Others argued that if the government does get involved, it could bring much more trouble for the Internet as a whole than the benefit it would add. Others still argued that the free market will handle itself, and that no rules should be added.
So far there had been no real decision either way, with the FCC, the body mandated to govern those things, not having made any clear decision. This changed today as the institution passed a set of rules that help define this. The rules are quite complicated, but suffice it to say pretty much everyone who isn't a big business is unhappy with them. On one side, the new rules do prevent Internet providers from blocking or slowing down access to competing web sites, but it does allow content providers to pay networks to have access to a fast line, bringing their data in priority. Many say the rules are too broad and vague, and fail to address some points. It also leaves a lot of freedoms to wireless providers to, for example, block access to specific apps on your cellphone.
While the debate rages on however, it's important to recognize that these rules simply give formal authority to the federal government to regulate these issues, it doesn't directly change the rules of the game for companies. The new rules will go into effect next year, and could still be blocked by Congress. They are also likely to be challenged in court by any of the parties involved in the discussions.
You can help show your support in the fight for net neutrality at Save the Internet.
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