FCC Passes Net Neutrality Regulations

WASHINGTON— The Federal Communications Commission approved a net neutrality policy for an open Internet by a 3-2 vote at its Thursday meeting.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that the policy will ensure "that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet."

But the plan to regulate how ISPs treat traffic on networks is expected to unleash a storm of litigation from those providers and perhaps put pressure on federal lawmakers to settle through legislation.

Many, however, believe that an equal playing field is the only way to go — and that the past 20 years of an expanding web proves it.

“Net neutrality is one of the fundamental reasons why the Internet age has seen a gargantuan explosion of communication, artistic and political expression, business models and corresponding products and services that have transformed the day-to-day lives of most Americans,” wrote Greg Piccionelli in an XBIZ World column in March’s edition.

“The loss of net neutrality correspondingly risks the loss of equal access to what is rapidly becoming a unitarily converging medium of human communication.”

Stuart Lawley of ICM Registry — the operator of .xxx and two other top-level domains starting Sunday, .porn and .adult — told Gigaom.com today that if a net neutrality wasn’t passed, the online adult industry would be easy targets for throttling.

“One gigabyte of data is one gigabyte of data, whether it’s ‘House of Cards’ or Shemales.xxx,” Lawley said. “What the consumers is paying for is the big pipe, and the speed of the pipe and quality of data that comes down that pipe.”

Lawley pointed out to Gigaom that ISPs could use domain suffixes as a source of discrimination when delivering web traffic, and not just porn domains like .xxx.

Without net neutrality rules, Lawley noted that an ISP could slow traffic of sites that suggest a religious affiliation: “You could have ISPs run by certain people who have certain racial or religious views who might slow Jewish websites.”

Today’s decision by the FCC comes after a year of intense public interest, with the FCC receiving 4 million public comments from companies, trade associations, advocacy groups and individuals.

The net neutrality provisions that were voted on today put a ban on blocking and throttling traffic, a ban on paid prioritization, and a requirement to disclose network management practices.

ISPs will not be allowed to block or degrade access to legal content, applications services, and non-harmful devices or favor some traffic over others in exchange for payment.