Net Neutrality Stirring Controvery... Again.

NetNeutrality_logo.pngThe Trump administration may be moving to re-examine some aspects of the FCC's 2015 net neutrality rules, and the prospect has some net neutrality proponents moving to protect their 2015 victories with the FCC.

According to the New York Times, Sean Spicer, White House Press Secretary, described the 2015 rules as "picking winners and losers" and noted that the new rules had re-classified internet providers as common carriers.  Proponents of net neutrality fear that without the rules, big content providers, especially big streaming video providers, will pay service providers to deliver their content more quickly while leaving smaller content providers unable to pay to have their content streamed efficiently to consumers.  They smaller providers fear a practice called "throttling" already used by many cell phone companies that either slows down video delivery or reduces the video quality below HD quality for delivery to smartphones.  

Opponents of some of the net neutrality provisions fear that government interference in that marketplace will curb investment in that area of the tech sector. 

As much at issue as net neutrality itself are the legal mechanisms the FCC has used to establish (or prohibit) net neutrality in the past.  In 2015 the FCC resorted to reclassifying internet providers as common carriers in order to assert authority to impose net neutrality.  This was after previous FCC attempts to implement net neutrality were successfully challenged in the courts.  Final authority for permanent measures may rest with Congress.

 Even discussion of the issue has become controversial.  Data Analytics company Gravwell studied the 22 million public comments submitted to the FCC prior to the 2015 decision and said that only 17.4% of the comments were unique, suggesting that over 80% of the comments were submitted by 'bots.  Most of the comments submitted in an automated method through the FCC's group submission portal appeared to be against net neutrality measures.  The majority of individual comments submitted through the FCC's web site seemed to be in favor of net neutrality rules.

Some observers seem to feel that government needs to stop the unruly cycle of rule-writing, comments periods ruled by 'bots, and court battles that have been decided both ways on both the absence and presence of net neutrality rules... needs to be drawn to a close by final authoritative legislative action by Congress.  Larry Downes at Forbes notes that some form of net neutrality will be affirmed again but fears that more court battles over the next result could delay real certainty for industry, investors and consumers.

What's hard to determine is just how much of the net neutrality concept is about to disappear under the newest administration.  While voices on both sides of the issue have been vociferous at times, most dialog has been in generalities and not discussing specific detailed policy questions.  Many, including The Economist, assert that over-regulation is a serious problem and look forward to what they regard as deregulation of Obama-era over-reach.

So the specifics of just how much of net neutrality the Trump administration wants to do away with is still unclear. What is clear is that the White House wants to help get government off the backs of business while still maintaining public acclaim through some measure of consumer or 'netizen' protection.


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