In lieu of enforceable net neutrality rules—which don’t yet exist—the Internet Association posted on Monday a handy infographic on what such rules about managing Internet traffic might look like on paper. At least in the opinion of the Internet Association, anyway.
It’s part of the Silicon Valley lobby group’s campaign to make the FCC issue rules that will keep cable companies and mobile providers from interfering with network traffic. Facebook, Google, Amazon, eBay, Netflix and the other three dozen Web companies which make up the Internet Association all have a vested interest in ensuring the FCC sees things their way.
So expect to see lots more things like infographics in the coming weeks, as the FCC collects public comments on its latest Net Neutrality proposal.
In January, a federal appeals court struck down the FCC’s “Open Internet Order” to prevent ISPs from providing some content faster than others, ruling that the FCC did not have the authority to enforce such rules. The decision was seen a blow to both Internet freedom and dangerous government regulation—depending on who you ask. As the Electronic Frontier Foundation noted at the time, “there is a lot of truth to both of these claims“:
Violations of network neutrality are a real and serious problem: in recent years we have seen dozens of ISPs in the U.S. and around the world interfere with and discriminate against traffic on their networks in ways that threaten the innovative fabric of the Internet. At the same time, we’ve long doubted that the FCC had the authority to issue the Open Internet rules in the first place, and we worried that the rules would lead to the FCC gaining broad control over the Internet. The FCC in particular has a poor track record of regulating our communications services. We are not confident that Internet users can trust the FCC, or any government agency, with open-ended regulatory authority of the Internet.
The FCC is now open for public comments on its latest net neutrality proposal, which will prevent ISPs from blocking user access to websites and applications, but allow them to charge content providers for faster Internet speeds as long as those deals are “commercially reasonable.”
On Monday, the Internet Association filed its own comments with the FCC. “Segregation of the Internet into fast lanes and slow lanes will distort the market, discourage innovation and harm Internet users,” Michael Beckerman, the association’s president and CEO, said in a statement. “The FCC must act to create strong, enforceable net neutrality rules and apply them equally to both wireless and wireline providers.”
In its press release, as well as the handy infographic (featuring hip hat tips such as “Futurama’s” Philip J. Fry and cats Grumpy and Nyan), the Internet Assocation encourages Internet users to action, and breaks down its suggestion for “Enforceable Net Neutrality Rules,” which seem to put the customer first:
As the EFF pointed out in January, net neutrality is far more complicated:
Internet users should be wary of any suggestion that there is an easy path to network neutrality. It’s a hard problem, and building solutions to resolve it is going to remain challenging. But here is one guiding principle: any effort to defend Net Neutrality should use the lightest touch possible, encourage a competitive marketplace, and focus on preventing discriminatory conduct by ISPs, rather than issuing broad mandatory obligations that are vulnerable to perverse consequences and likely to be outdated as soon as they take effect.
There is one thing to keep in mind when reviewing that handy Internet Association infographic that seems to put you, the potentially government representative-contacting individual, first. Take another look at Sen. Al Franken’s 2012 antitrust speech to the American Bar Association, in which he says of Internet giants such as Google and Facebook, “[Y]ou are not their client. You are their product.”
It will likely be a long time before we see anything resembling “enforceable net neutrality rules” exist on something more than the ones and zeros of the Internet Association’s infographic. If you feel you can’t wait, however, why not print it out? Then it will exist on paper paper, thus moving such rules one step closer to becoming a simulacrum of something real … just like the Internet!