Internet connections may not be simply neutral pipelines to get information through. Image: Flickr / rmgimages / CC-BY

The Federal Communications Commission has been considering net neutrality rules for more than a year. On Sept. 23, the rules will be officially published, which would put them in effect on Nov. 20. The rules, however, are likely to be challenged in court.

The new net neutrality rules

The proposed net neutrality rules the FCC plans on publishing are essentially the same as the rules originally proposed back in December of 2010. The FCC summarizes these rules as:

First, transparency: fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics, and commercial terms of their broadband services. Second, no blocking: fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services. Third, no unreasonable discrimination: fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.

The rules would still allow for network providers to slow down (throttle) bandwidth for some users, or even block some applications on the web services they provide.

Lawsuits planned against net neutrality

Though no lawsuits have yet been refiled against the net neutrality regulations, several are planned. Verizon and MetroPCS Communications both originally filed lawsuits against the net neutrality rules, but the cases were thrown out of court. The judge said that plaintiffs had no standing to file the lawsuit until the rules actually affect them. That means that the rules would have to actually be in effect. Verizon has not announced a date for re-filing the lawsuit, but has indicated that the intention is to do so very soon.

Legislative action expected

Once the FCC has officially published the rules, Republican lawmakers plan on trying to overturn the FCC’s new rules. Lawmakers have expressed concern that putting new limits on broadband access or internet connection providers would put unnecessary restrictions on businesses that are trying to grow in a down economy.

What net neutrality means for customers

For customers that use the web every day, net neutrality rules will have some effect. Generally, it means that no internet connection provider in the United States can block or limit lawful connections. However, this means that the downloading of movies, grey-market gambling websites, and other not-entirely-legal connections may still be at risk of limitations. The new proposed rules also allow mobile providers to slow down connections or block certain kinds of programs if they will significantly slow down the overall connection speed for that network. The likelihood that these rules will actually go into effect on Nov. 20, however, is very low.


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