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Pulling net neutrality from a swamp of lies

Steven J. Vaughan-Nichols | March 9, 2015
New net neutrality rules: no blocking, no throttling, no paid prioritization.

On Feb. 26, the Federal Communications Commission voted, along strict party lines, to approve new net neutrality rules by reclassifying broadband as a regulated public utility. So does that save the Internet or lock it up in a bureaucratic, censored, expensive prison?

I've been using the Internet since the '70s, and reporting on it since the '80s, and in all that time I don't think I've ever seen so much nonsense said about it as has been said over the past year.

The new FCC rules are not some secret Obama plan to require website owners to have to get licenses or to start taxing it. That's just blather from hysterical wingnuts.

Yes, there are 332 pages of regulations, which haven't been broadly seen yet. Well, guess what — like most government regulations, these are kept out of sight until they've been approved. What I've heard from friends who have seen them is that only about eight pages of the new net neutrality rules are revised regulations. The rest of it consists of legal precedents and the usual boilerplate that you'll find in any government regulations.

What do the new rules really amount to? If the morons now in a panic over the feds controlling the Internet had been paying attention, they would have seen that it consists of three "new" rules. These are:

No blocking: Broadband providers may not block access to legal content, applications, services or non-harmful devices.

No throttling: Broadband providers may not impair or degrade lawful Internet traffic on the basis of content, applications, services or non-harmful devices.

No paid prioritization: Broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over other lawful traffic in exchange for consideration — in other words, no "fast lanes." This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing the content and services of their partners.

I put "new" in quotes because if you'd been around the Internet's technology and legalities as long as I have, you'd know that there's nothing new about any of this.

The Internet you know today, with its Amazon, Facebook, Google and porn sites for every taste, came about because in 1992, the ISPs formed the Commercial Internet Exchange (CIX). It's guiding principle? Net neutrality — that no sites would be blocked, no traffic would be metered or slowed and universal standards would be used for the free flow of information.

That sounds an awful lot like what the FCC just approved, doesn't it? That's because it is.

It's ironic that many of the lusers squawking about how the FCC is trying to take over the Internet fail to realize that the FCC is just re-enforcing the free-market rules that created today's Internet. What happened is that the last-mile ISPs — the ones who are screaming the most about how unfair the FCC is today — broke net neutrality. They did it by deliberately breaking the CIX rules and challenging the FCC's authority to require that they play by the net neutrality rules. Verizon gets the credit for this, having successfully sued the FCC for trying to regulate the Internet in 2014.


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