[JURIST] The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] adopted [press release] new Internet traffic rules on Wednesday in light of a recent court decision [opinion, PDF], which struck down former rules requiring broadband providers to employ nondiscriminatory practices in the treatment of Internet content. This former practice is known as net neutrality [JURIST news archive]. Experts say [JURIST report] the new rules will create a “fast lane” for certain websites and services, which may enable companies to enter into pay-for-play agreements [WP report] with Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to ensure their data is transmitted at a faster speed for special services or during periods of high demand. Despite these criticisms, the FCC declared that the new rules will promote competition and benefit consumers:
Today’s action will promote more competition in more markets, and facilitate consumers having more choices of wireless providers, lower prices, and higher quality mobile service. ….To promote competition, the rules establish a market-based reserve of no more than 30 megahertz of spectrum targeted for providers that hold less than 1/3 of available low-band spectrum in a license area.
The FCC also stated that it may modify the new rules based on changing market conditions.
Net neutrality has emerged as a major political issue in the US and internationally. In April the European Parliament approved [JURIST report] a net neutrality proposal that prohibits ISPs from enhancing or restricting services for selected Internet traffic. The proposed law, approved by a 534-25 vote with 58 abstentions, aims to treat all Internet traffic equally by making it illegal to block, slow down or give preferential treatment to certain specific applications and services for economic or other reasons. In February the FCC announced it will not appeal [JURIST report] the court ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit [official website] that struck down net neutrality.