Net neutrality rules are coming. Here's why they matter

Posted in: Government & Policy at 26/09/2011 14:00

A new set of FCC rules would make net neutrality an enforceable reality, rather than just a set of principles. But Verizon and other providers think the FCC has overstepped its bounds.

Net neutrality is finally real, or at least will be in a few months. The new rules for Internet companies will be put into place on November 20 - unless they get derailed by lawsuits. The guidelines, written by the US Federal Communications Commission, say essentially this: Internet providers can't deliberately block or slow speeds for "heavy" Internet users, such as people who stream movies or play online games, nor throttle traffic from a certain source, such as from competitors or peer-to-peer downloads.

The rules might get delayed or prevented, though, by lawsuits that Internet providers have brought against the FCC. The legal contention stems from the basic argument against net neutrality: companies such as Verizon and AT&T say they ought to be able to charge more from consumers who use more data. They worry that heavy data consumption - such as streaming movies or downloading music - slows down the online experience of other users, forcing providers to spend more on infrastructure.

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