Two years ago the Federal Communications Commission’s net neutrality rules went into effect, giving consumers what was supposed to be a ‘free and open’ internet.
Unfortunately, the future of the FCC’s Open Internet Order (OIO) is in jeopardy and this is bad news for game developers.
What ‘net neutrality’ means
The primary goal of net neutrality is to ensure that no single U.S. internet service provider can arbitrarily decide to slow down (or speed up) a consumer’s access to/from specific content providers — regardless of the content or where in the world the content is coming from.
In 2009 the FCC started the process that would eventually make this goal a reality and they were immediately met with resistance by many cable companies, wireless providers, and lobbying groups.
Many court battles, protests, and 4 million public comments on their website later, the FCC was able to reclassify ISPs as a “telecommunications service” and the Open Internet Order was enacted in 2015. [For a more in-depth timeline of events check out http://whatisnetneutrality.org/timeline.]
Essentially, by classifying high-speed internet services under Title II of the Federal Communications Act, U.S. wired and wireless broadband providers like AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Time Warner, and Verizon were prohibited from prioritizing traffic from some sources over others.
For example, Comcast and Time Warner are part of a group of companies who own Hulu, a streaming service that competes with Netflix. Without the OIO in place, their broadband divisions could throttle the connection speeds to Netflix resulting in a poor streaming service for their subscribers. This would give those consumers an extra incentive to make the switch to Hulu which would directly benefit Comcast and Time Warner’s bottom line!
Does that sound too far-fetched to be true? Then read this report from Time that goes over the deal Netflix made with Comcast pre-Open Internet Order to pay them to make sure their subscribers “receive reliable, high-speed streaming service from the online video giant for years to come.”
The Open Internet is under attack, again
Telecom companies and associations fought hard to overturn the Open Internet Order, but even though the courts stood by the FCC’s Open Internet rules, many of those same organizations have continued to lobby against these rules to try and get them overturned.
This year they got their first big break when President Donald Trump appointed Ajit Pai as the new chairman of the FCC.
Pai, who has sided with ISPs in the net neutrality debate, quickly got to work and started the following multi-stage process of rolling back the current rules:
- April 26: The Chairman announced he was submitting a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) to accomplish that rollback to be voted on by the commission in May. An early proposal draft was published on the FCC site.
- April 27-May 17: The filing draft was open to the public for comments. Although the site crashes multiple times (some attribute this to John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight revisit of this issue) the FCC did not push back their meeting and extend the deadline to file comments.
- May 18: The…
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