The FCC's Net Neutrality Announcement: The Good, The Bad, and What It Means for You

Illustration for article titled The FCC's Net Neutrality Announcement: The Good, The Bad, and What It Means for You

Today, the FCC's chairman will deliver a speech essentially outlining the agency's stance on net neutrality—and making an exciting push in its favor. The news isn't entirely positive though—net neutrality might be preserved, but it'll be expensive.

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FCC chief Julius Genachowski plans to back new government rules that would prohibit your ISP from blocking legal content. That means that Comcast, for example, couldn't block Netflix, in an attempt to bolster its own streaming video offerings. The Washington Post is also reporting that Genachowski's proposal would block Comcast from even slowing down Netflix. So, basically, these are the prime tenets of net neutrality. So this is good news! No anti-competitive behavior from ISPs.

But.

In what appears to be a pretty major concession to the companies carrying your data, Genachowski's speech will give the thumbs up to tiered internet service, establishing cheap-o plans for those leaning most on email and other data-light activities—and potentially gouging bandwidth-hungry users. Under this rule, ISPs would be able to restructure their business along the lines of cell carriers—buy more to get more.

Interestingly (and to some, disappointingly), the FCC has chosen not to throw down and impose its sole authority to regulate the internet by reclassifying its legal status as something similar to telephone lines. It's a weaker approach—surely one easier to swallow for the ISPs—and one that'll open up the push to attacks from courts and an anti-regulatory lawmakers.

As well, Genachowski will support separate, non-public internet channels—what many feared would become "second internets"—but says they must be justified to the FCC and shown to not undermine the real internet.

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For wireless broadband—the frontier of the speedy net—things are a bit murkier. Genachowski says there are "differences between fixed and mobile broadband," and will "address anticompetitive or anticonsumer behavior as appropriate." Whatever "differences" and "as appropriate" means remains to be seen, although he's still promising a basic ban against wireless broadband providers blocking rival content entirely. But weasel terms in policy making are never good news.

At any rate, the speech is—for today—just a speech. Just a stance. The FCC won't vote on anything until December 21st. But it shows that the FCC still isn't giving up on net neutrality, even if it's going to have to compromise along the way. [NYT and Washington Post]

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DISCUSSION

Welcome, Americans, to Canada. We've been paying for tiered internet with bandwidth caps for years. At least you got promises to not be throttled, we get that, hardcore. Which is hilarious, because directly on Rogers' (one of the largest ISPs in the country) website, it said "how fast is 15Mbps: Full length movie (700MB) - 6min 13sec". Now sure, it, of course, has the asterisk, but that only points out that it depends on the size and quality of the content, it says nothing about Rogers throttling your speed you couldn't get a movie downloaded that fast. A 20-minute TV show takes an hour or two downloaded through a [legal, of course] torrent, how the hell do they expect a move to be downloaded in 6 minutes. Fucking lies, but not like anyone can call them on that.

Anywho Americans, here's Rogers' breakdown of internet packages, possibly what you have to look forward to (and no, despite how much sense it would make, you cannot customize a package that has reasonable speed (short of being throttled, very few people need over 15Mbps, but many need more than 80GB/month).

Ultra-Lite: down-500Kbps, up-256Kbps, bandwidth-2GB, cost $27.99, overage fee $5/GB

Lite: down-3Mbps, Up-256Kbps, bandwidth-15GB, cost $35.99, overage fee $4/GB

Express: down-10Mbps, up-512Kbps, bandwidth-60GB, cost $46.99, overage fee $2/GB

Extreme: down-15Mbps, down-1Mbps, bandwidth-80GB, cost $59.99, overage fee $1.50/GB

Extreme Plus: down-25Mbps, up-1Mbps, bandwidth-125GB, cost $69.99, overage fee $1.25/GB

Ultimate: down-50Mbps, up-2Mbps, bandwidth-175GB, cost $99.99, overage fee $0.50/GB

If that makes you want to cry, or be sick, or whatever, I understand. Now, not all is to fear with this system, I could have swore there was a $50 maximum on overage charges (formerly $25... I miss the days of being happy at only having to pay that much more), but it's not listed anymore, so... I don't know.

And, of course, the hilarious part—as you'd expect in any asshole corporation dedicated to fucking you—is that as plans get "better", their speed goes up, and their bandwidth goes down. Because that's what everyone really wants.

As a bonus, I found this this page while going through their site. Where they talk about how they throttle P2P upstream only... yeah right, then explain to me how come I'm lucky to get a 100KB/s speed in uTorrent on Rogers, but regularly get 1MB/s on an "inferior" plan from their competitor?