The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is expected today to enact net neutrality regulations that would regulate what internet service providers (ISPs) and wireless companies can and cannot do in restricting content from websites.
The draft regulations would basically prohibit ISPs and wireless companies from blocking rival websites or services from being accessed by users, as well as prohibit them from dividing services into slow and fast download categories. For example, Verizon wireless could not block users from visiting a Comcast website, and Comcast ISP could not allow its own website to load faster than a Verizon website. The intent of the rule is to allow unfettered wireless and internet access and to allow unlimited choices in internet and wireless options. Some companies like Skype and Google have been pushing for the rules to prevent media companies from blocking their free or cheaper services.
The regulations do not offer unlimited free access however; ISPs and wireless companies can work out business arrangements with internet companies to create a pay-for-faster-service arrangement with customers, and wireless customers can still be charged for using certain video or social media applications on their smart phones.
The legality and appropriateness of the regulation has been called into question by some opponents of net neutrality. A federal court ruling in May restricted the FCC’s authority to rule-make in the area of net neutrality. The regulation can also be overturned by the new Congress, which will have more opponents of net neutrality, especially in the House of Representatives. Opponents claim that restricting companies’ abilities to regulate internet content not only puts ISPs and wireless companies at a competitive disadvantage to free services, but restricts their creative ability to offer new and innovative products for consumers.