Last week, the FCC released the details of its Net Neutrality order. Looking past the sound bites from both sides of this debate, the FCC appears to have a struck a delicate balance that will ensure consumers can continue to enjoy access to the digital content and experiences they love and, at the same time, preserve the ability of current and future content creators to innovate.
The crux of the order is the ban on blocking, throttling or prioritizing content. Rightfully, the FCC is seeking to preserve consumers’ unfettered access to content or experiences on the Internet. Just as importantly, however, the order also protects the ability of content creators to reach their audience without having to seek the blessing of the ISPs.
In the absence of this order, future content creators might have to pay ISPs just to receive fair treatment of their content or, worse, find themselves shut out in favor of content created by affiliates of the ISP. To be clear, large and established corporations would probably do very well in a world where broadband providers served as gatekeepers of the Internet – the small and game-changing innovators, well, not so much. The FCC should be applauded for going to great lengths to ensure that the consumer experience and content creators are protected.
Another key component of the order is the requirement that a broadband provider provide transparency about “the network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of its broadband Internet access services.” This kind of transparency is vital to helping consumers fully understand the internet services they have purchased and whether they are getting full value. This information is also critical to content creators who need to know that new applications, content and services will operate as expected.
The FCC also declined to waive (or “forebear”) the consumer privacy requirements under Title II although they won’t apply them immediately. Instead, the commission intends to hold a workshop to explore how the Title II privacy provisions should be implemented to protect consumer privacy. As the FCC rightly notes, “broadband providers serve as a necessary conduit for information passing between an Internet user and Internet sites or other Internet users, and are in a position to obtain vast amounts of personal and proprietary information about their customers.” As we’ve written about before, and the FCC agrees, consumer trust is critical to harnessing the full potential of broadband internet services.
We argued in our comments to the FCC last summer that the FCC should focus their work on the consumer experience. With this order, the FCC has taken important steps to encourage investment and innovation in content creation for consumers, and ensure that the Internet is an open platform that supports consumer choice and the open exchange of ideas and information.