By Christopher Stark A year ago, I wrote an article for InformationWeek on the state of the Internet and the implications of the Net Neutrality issue—specifically how it relates to cloud solutions and the Internet. One of the consequences of a fast-lane described how Internet service providers (ISPs) would throttle Internet speeds and demand more fees for uninterrupted access.
The image above, from a Washington Post story in April 2014, shows the change in download speeds Netflix users on Comcast saw before and after Comcast demanded Netflix to pay for uninterrupted access and prioritization. This is a prime example of how manipulation is possible through a throttled Internet, and is the very reason why I advocated for a free and open Internet in favor of Net Neutrality. And I wasn’t alone. More than four million public comments, both for and against, overwhelmed the FCC prior to the ruling on the proposal from Tom Wheeler, chairman of the U.S. Federal Communications Commission. The committee ultimately voted on Feb. 26, 2015 to pass regulations that would keep the Internet free from tyrannical pricing and strict restrictions set by ISPs. We had won; we could continue to ensure that ideas and information would stream fast across the web, regardless of how deep one’s pockets happen to be. Entrepreneurs, small business owners, schools, and the person uploading a video of their kid to share with family would get the same treatment as the most powerful and wealthiest companies on the planet. Although I was for it, the American public was for it, and Internet companies large and small were for it, the fight is far from over. Directly following the ruling in February, ISPs and some members of Congress levied threats to not allow the ruling – our voices – to be the end of the battle. Attempts were made to delay the vote, hearings were called to investigate the FCC’s independent authority, and then lawsuits were filed to block implementation of the rules. This was prior to the rules even being set, read or implemented. Despite great opposition, the FCC kept its stride and published its Net Neutrality rules in April. They were met with even more lawsuits from sources such as the Wireless Association, originally known as the Cellular Telephone Industries Association (CTIA), which has represented the wireless industry since 1984; The National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA); the American Cable Association (ACA); and AT&T. But again the FCC pushed on and, as of June, its published rules were deemed active and enforceable. ISPs are continuing the fight and pushing for the rules to be overturned by filing complaints and lawsuits. But for now the Internet is safe from blocking, throttling, pay-for-priority fast lanes and other efforts, which poses no short-term challenges for cloud solutions providers. A hearing for further arguments has been scheduled to take place on Dec. 4. If ISPs win, then the FCC must restart its efforts from the beginning. But if they lose, the rules will stand. Some are also examining how the upcoming presidential election might affect Net Neutrality, because the new president will appoint new members of the FCC and will work with a new Congress. Net Neutrality could then be in the hands of the party that wins. In the meantime, we must endure the fight and continue to support the FCC and Chairman Wheeler in order to keep the Internet fast, fair and open. If you would like to participate in the conversation, submit your opinion to the FCC’s inbox for open Internet comments via email@example.com or to open comment forums from activist groups, such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)’s Dear FCC webpage, at https://www.dearfcc.org/.