FCC votes to maybe not really allow fast lanes

Rob Powell/Telecom Ramblings
16 May 2014

So the FCC went ahead and voted to consider its chairman Tom Wheeler’s new net neutrality framework. But about the only thing anyone can agree on about it is that we’re going to be arguing about it for the foreseeable future.

Does it propose to authorize commercially feasible fast lanes or paid prioritization or whatever? As far as I can tell nobody is exactly sure what any of it means, because the terms are so loosely defined. Wheeler says nothing in there authorizes anything of the sort, while on the other hand it seems to say it might be legal.

But perhaps we can read between a few lines:

If the network operator slowed the speed below that which the consumer bought it would be commercially unreasonable and therefore prohibited. If a network operator blocked access to lawful content it would violate our no-blocking rule and be commercially unreasonable and therefore be doubly prohibited.

When content provided by a firm such as Netflix reaches a network provider it would be commercially unreasonable to charge the content provider to use that bandwidth for which the consumer had already paid, and therefore prohibited. When a consumer purchases specified network capacity from an internet provider, he or she is buying open capacity, not capacity a network provider can prioritize for their own purposes.

Did you catch that? Think about it for a second. If a network operator explicitly sells a 50Mbps pipe to the consumer, he has to supply all of it and not interfere with it. BUT, if someone like Apple were to buy an extra 100Mbps to that consumer, the consumer wouldn’t be denied anything he bought and nobody would be paying twice for the same bandwidth. Get it? It’s not a fast lane created by paid prioritization, it’s *extra capacity* and therefore perhaps NOT prohibited by this logic at all. I think I just sprained my left brain.

The proceedings were apparently disrupted a few times by protestors. I suspect that it’s only going to get messier from here. It’s as if this whole proposal were designed to create enough chaos to make the next proposal (whatever it is) seem sane and well thought out.

This article was authored by Rob Powell and was originally posted on Telecomramblings.com

Rob Powell is founder & editor of Telecom Ramblings, which was set up in 2008. The website is dedicated to discussing trends and developments in the telecom industry.

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