December 21, 2010, 2:17 PM — The Federal Communications Commission is expected to approve new Net neutrality rules that it believes will ensure free and open Internet access for years to come. The new rules will reportedly prevent fixed (ground) line broadband providers from blocking lawful Web content and services. Wireless broadband providers, meanwhile, will have the ability to block access to content and services as they see fit as long as they do not offer a competing service. Wireless carriers could, for example, block YouTube if the carrier did not offer a similar video sharing site.
The new rules will also supposedly discourage providers from charging fees to popular Web services such as Facebook or Google to deliver their content to your home faster.
The rules have garnered a lot of controversy. Senator Al Franken called the proposed rules "worse than nothing," but FCC commissioner Mignon L. Clybrun said the proposal "will establish clear rules to protect consumers' access."
Here's a look at some possibilities for what your broadband access at home and on your mobile device might look like under the new rules.
Skype on 3G
Yes, you can already get Skype calls over 3G on some wireless networks. But under the new FCC rules wireless providers would not be allowed to block access to Skype, because they offer a competing service (voice calls).
The new FCC rules will reportedly discourage, but not prevent, carriers from offering paid prioritization to Web services. In other words, Comcast could offer YouTube the chance to have content from Google's video site delivered to your computer faster than competing video services. The catch is that Google would have to pay a fee for that to happen.
No Torrents For You
Fixed-line broadband providers will not be allowed to discriminate against any lawful Web services you want to use. Did you see that little disclaimer in there? That's right "lawful" Web services, meaning that torrent indexing sites, such as The Pirate Bay, and other sites considered shady could soon disappear from your Web browser. This is not entirely surprising since the government has been coming down hard on copyright infringement in recent weeks. In November, federal authorities seized the domains of 82 websites purportedly selling goods that infringed copyright law such as music, movies and handbags.