The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed rules this week to regulate how Internet Server Providers (ISPs) can provide services to consumers. The set of rules fall within the concept of Network (Net) Neutrality. Basically, the idea behind net neutrality is to prevent ISPs from discriminating between different content or applications that use the Internet.
What if AT&T decided it didn’t like the idea that people could make free or very cheap phone calls on their network, so they decided to block the use of Skype? As it currently exists (without the FCC’s ruling) it possible that AT&T could take such an action. The problem is compounded by the fact there is very little, if any, competition in Internet access in most communities. What if you live in a community only served by Comcast, and Comcast decided the only network TV it would allow on it’s Internet service is NBC’s?
The FCC’s rules treat wired and wireless Internet access differently, with wireless access remaining pretty much unregulated. Wireless providers will have the ability to tier their services, including discriminating different content type. Engadget has consolidated the responses that each of the mobile carriers have provided, even though the final text of the FCC’s rules have not yet been published, and the reactions are all over the map.
As it seems to be the case of any government regulation, overall reaction ranges from those who support the regulation who think the rules don’t go far enough, to those who dislike any government regulation, and feel it is unnecessary. What we now wait for is what actions the mobile providers take. I expect to see an increase in the number of data plans from mobile providers, with plans like mobile gaming and voice over IP costing more money.