The net neutrality debate has been raging for some time now, but the FCC’s adoption of official net neutrality rules in December 2010 have fanned the flames, prompting action from both sides. The rules, created to protect consumers, will not allow communications companies to block traffic on the Internet, whether the company runs a wired or wireless network. Providers must also reveal how they manage their networks, ensuring that no illegal traffic shaping occurs under the radar. Finally, wired broadband providers are barred from unreasonably discriminating against traffic on their network, ensuring that all traffic is prioritized the same way. This means that wireless carriers are allowed to prioritize data transfers on their networks, which the FCC sees as essential to keeping phone services running smoothly. The recent boom of streaming content providers and cloud services like cloud computing and online file storage have increased the strain on providers’ networks and prompted them to attempt to recover from the increased usage any way they can. The more their networks are taxed, the more money it costs the companies to provide their services, both in equipment and payroll. Further, companies like Verizon don’t think the government should interfere with their networks and how they do business. Verizon feels that the FCC is overstepping its authority by issuing these rules and has filed a complaint against the rules, calling for the federal courts to disallow the FCC to create rules allowing it to oversee the management of the telecom giant’s networks.
An advocacy group, Free Press, is also calling for a review of the rules, but for the opposite reason. The group feels that the FCC’s rules concerning traffic management should apply equally to both wired and wireless network operators. Free Press filed a lawsuit in Boston federal court, calling the FCC’s rules arbitrary and demanding that all networks be treated the same, regardless of the physical medium used to carry the data. The group also called out Verizon for attempting to throw out the FCC’s rules entirely, saying that Verizon’s choice would leave consumers without any protection and would allow the company to charge its users whatever amount it wished without any oversight.
The FCC’s new rules would provide the federal group with a set of guidelines for ensuring that network providers can’t penalize users for certain types of data usage and will prevent telecom companies from charging other companies, like the streaming media companies Netflix and Spotify, extra for using their services. Despite the seemingly strict rules for both wired and wireless companies, groups like Free Press feel that all the rules are not strong enough and should be equally applied to all network types. If the FCC’s rules are overturned in court, it may be years before the country sees a resolution to the hot debate of net neutrality, especially with both sides being so vocal on the issue.