In addition to the seven principles already listed here, there are two more important things to note in Google and Verizon’s net neutrality proposal.
The first is the principle on network management. This allows for ISPs to reduce or mitigate the effects of congestion, ensure the security and integrity of the network, guarantee service quality, and address traffic that is unwanted or harmful to users — basically, day-to-day operations of a network. It requires ISPs to be open with (and transparent about) their networks, but still allows for management in order to provide the best service.
The second is the principle on regulatory authority. This gives the FCC exclusive authority over broadband internet. However, it does not allow the FCC any authority over internet applications, content or services.
To add to the fifth principal regarding ISPs offering differentiated online services, the proposal allows these services to make use of and access internet content and, most importantly, allows for the prioritization of traffic. The principal also requires the FCC to publish an annual report on the effect of these services on standard internet. It would also be required to report any services that threaten internet access or evade consumer protections listed in the proposal.
The proposal ultimately leaves the FCC with little power to change rules in the future, and puts wireless broadband outside the reach of net neutrality. Those with net neutrality-related problems would be forced to go to internet governance bodies that have yet to be named. Other controversies over the past several years may have already proved the FCC never had a fighting chance anyways.
In 2009, Time Warner attempted to institute a tiered pricing plan in several major cities, including Rochester, which sparked yet another net neutrality-related controversy. The plan was to charge customers based on their consumption — much in the way pay-as-you-go cell phone plans charge by the number of minutes used. Their reasoning was to reduce the strain on the broadband network from people who download and stream movies, TV shows and music. However, Time Warner shelved the plan only two weeks later. In a statement, C.E.O. Glenn Britt said they wouldn’t continue because “it [was] clear from the public response over the last two weeks that there is a great deal of misunderstanding about [the] plans to roll out additional tests on consumption-based billing.”
AT&T, a company known to have network problems since the introduction of the iPhone, has also sided with Google and Verizon. In a statement titled “Wireless is Different,” AT&T details the differences between wired and wireless networks and what they’re doing to meet the growing demand. But they make sure it’s known that there is only so much they can do by saying, “We are constantly striving to increase the efficiency of our spectrum resources, but the amount of available spectrum in any given market is finite. And while we regularly split cell sectors and add additional cell towers, there are very real limits placed on cell site construction by zoning and local approval boards.”
A recent ruling may be the largest blow yet to net neutrality supporters. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ruled last month that the FCC does not have the power to enforce net neutrality after the FCC tried to stop Comcast from filtering Bittorrent on its network. Comcast challenged their authority and ultimately won since the FCC currently only has the power to enforce fair pricing and access over common carriers — or public utilities like the public switched telephone network — not over information services (what the internet is classified as under U.S. law).
The FCC has no plan to sit back and watch, though. Just after Verizon and Google’s proposal was released, an FCC statement noted, “It is time to move a decision forward — a decision to reassert FCC authority over broadband telecommunications, to guarantee an open internet now and forever.” For now, consumers will have to hold their breath and see what happens as these internet giants start to rumble.