updated 11:20 am EDT, Mon September 21, 2009
Genachowski details net neutrality
FCC chairman Julius Genachowski today matched expectations with a formal proposal of net neutrality rules. The official's presentation at Washington's Brooklings Institute detailed a first rule that would bar Internet providers from trying to block apps, content and websites that compete with the company or use a high amount of bandwidth. Traffic regulation would be allowed, but a second rule would force providers to be transparent regarding the methods used.
A requirement for transparency is believed to be a specific response to Comcast's early throttling methods, which were kept secret and officially denied until investigations forced it to admit to its practices. The approach specifically slowed BitTorrent traffic and was criticized for hindering the distribution of legitimate content over the distributed format.
The rules would be a codification of an FCC neutrality statement that is technically non-binding but has been used as a guiding principle for the agency's behavior in recent years, including the Comcast decision.
Such rules if put into effect are expected to primarily have ramifications for regular Internet providers, as it would prevent them from throttling web video or other services that compete with their own TV services. However, the app rule may also force open mobile apps by preventing carriers like AT&T from blocking apps like SlingPlayer on their 3G networks for bandwidth or anti-competitive reasons alone. These firms have often argued that live streaming video damages the capacity of their networks but have often selectively allowed video streaming services like YouTube to work beyond Wi-Fi. Many also block VoIP services like Skype that they fear might provide a cheaper alternative to their voice plans, although audio quality has also been a concern.
Genachowski and other proponents of net neutrality have argued that the Internet as a communications medium needs to be open to encourage new competition and developments in technology.