October 23, 2009, 1:14 PM — With the Federal Communications Commission approving a process to formalize network neutrality rules, a period of official debate begins on how our Internet traffic is managed, as if there wasn't enough debate already. In a nutshell, the FCC wants to stop Internet service providers from slowing down or blocking particular uses, such as peer-to-peer downloading, as long as they're legal.
If you're like me--a moderate but frequent Internet user with no investments in the telecommunications industry--there are a few things you'll want to see as the FCC's net neutrality rulemaking process shakes down over the coming months. Here's what I hope will happen from here:
Give Us Real Transparency
One of the new rules the FCC hopes to introduce requires transparency from Internet service providers on how they manage their networks. Partly, this is needed for the FCC to check that no other net neutrality rules are being violated, but I hope disclosure trickles down to the consumer, revealing how our traffic is managed in a clear, accessible way. This should happen even, or especially, if the other net neutrality rules are watered down.
Please FCC, Stay Flexible
One of the arguments raised by opponents in the industry is that critical uses, such as transmissions from medical devices, need to be given priority. I'm skeptical that this is what ISPs are truly worried about, but if the claim has merit, why can't the FCC allow an exemption to the rules? And if bandwidth use becomes so overwhelming that it ruins the Internet, the FCC should have the ability to relax its rules. The idea of an open Internet is at least worth trying.
Please, Don't Punish the Little Guy