04 Dec Eight Questions About Friday’s Net Neutrality Hearing
The Federal Communications Commission will head to court on Friday to defend its net neutrality rules against opponents who want to overturn the broadband regulations, a hearing that may help determine how consumers get access to content on the web.
If this sounds familiar, it’s because the F.C.C. has twice appeared in front of the same federal court to argue over net neutrality policies, in particular a set of regulations aimed at preventing favoritism on the Internet. In both cases, the F.C.C. argued that it had the authority to regulate high-speed Internet providers, while opponents argued the agency was overstepping the mandates of Congress. Both times, the agency lost.
Hoping that the third time will be the charm, the F.C.C.’s lawyers will tell a panel of judges at the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that its most recent version of net neutrality rules is on firmer legal ground. With all the twists and turns of the F.C.C.’s yearslong net neutrality push, we offer this guide on the latest developments and what they may mean for you.
I still don’t get what “net neutrality” means. Explain.
It’s a lousy name for the idea that traffic for all legal content on the Internet should be treated equally. In practice, that principle has taken shape in F.C.C. regulations that bar Internet service providers from blocking certain websites or making them download slower or faster than others.
An example of a net neutrality violation would be if Comcast decided to intentionally make streams of Netflix videos buffer while allowing its own streaming service to play seamlessly to its millions of home broadband customers. Another would be if AT&T blocked Facebook Messenger for its wireless customers.
The current F.C.C. rules on net neutrality were approved in February. How do they differ from past versions?
The rules ban blocking and throttling of Internet content. They also prohibit “paid prioritization,” the practice by web companies of paying Internet service providers for priority delivery of their sites to consumers. The biggest difference in this set of rules is that the F.C.C. categorized broadband as a utility along with telephone services under a statute known as Title II.
Under this new categorization, the F.C.C. can attach many of its telephone rules to broadband. Telecom and cable companies say the new categorization of broadband as a utility will strap too many arcane utility phone rules onto the newer and thriving high-speed Internet industry. They are now fighting to have the rules invalidated.