FCC rules mobile broadband doesn't require net neutrality

Net neutrality, the idea that the Internet should be free of restrictions placed by governments and ISP’s, has been in the news for quite some time now. The Guardian reports that the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has ruled in a vote of 3-2, that while fixed broadband lines require such neutrality, mobile broadband does not, as it is already ran on an open platform. The reasoning behind this decision was based on the thought that mobile operating systems such as Android are already built on an open concept, and mobile carriers such as Verizon are operating on specific wireless frequencies that will shortly meet imposed regulations on limiting restrictions.

The FCC went on to say:

"We recognize that there have been meaningful recent moves toward openness, including the introduction of open operating systems like Android. In addition, we anticipate soon seeing the effects on the market of the openness conditions we imposed on mobile providers that operate on upper 700 MHz C-Block spectrum, which includes Verizon Wireless, one of the largest mobile wireless carriers in the U.S.

"In light of these considerations, we conclude it is appropriate to take measured steps at this time to protect the openness of the Internet when accessed through mobile broadband.”

This ruling basically allows mobile carriers to decide on how they want content distributed on their networks, including pay-per-service charges, in which a company that wishes to distribute content on that carriers network would first have to pay fees. The reverse can also be applied, where a user may instead be charged for accessing a specific service, such as YouTube or Facebook. One of the concepts of net neutrality is that all services should be treated in a neutral way, and when a specific service or company is singled out, neutrality does not exist.

Critics of the ruling say that while Android may be open, carriers are free to lock down the OS as they wish. While the Android operating system does make up a large portion of the moible phone market, it is only one piece of the pie. Other mobile operating systems aren't nearly as open, and are not only regulated by a carrier, but the company developing that particular OS. Having a phone equipped with an open operating system does very little, as the services accessed by that device are still maintained by the carrier, not the OS on the phone. Legislators appear to have missed this crucial distinction.  

An overview of the FCC operations for yesterday can be found here, while documents pertaining to the specific discussion can be accessed here:

• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303745A1.pdf
• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303746A5.pdf
• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303746A3.pdf
• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303746A1.pdf
• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303746A4.pdf
• http://www.fcc.gov/Daily_Releases/Daily_Business/2010/db1221/DOC-303746A2.pdf

What are your thoughts on Net Neutrality, do you agree with the FCC's ruling? Let us know in the comments below!

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39 Comments

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Mobile Broadband is the only area of the internet where there possibly could be a legitimate basis for net neutrality. Being that it's broadcast over the airwaves, that gives the FCC some sort of power over it. But their regulation of all other forms of access is inappropriate and stupid.

I'm not against regulation, however, I am not in favor of the government having next to any power over the internet.

OgamaWab said,
we are the government..and we should be in control...

We control the corporations with our dollars. If you don't like Comcast, get a USB modem through some 3G or 4G carrier.

That could be possible... but there are other components that make people stay.

As long as they can have monopolies in hardware (oh excuse me... exclusives) then people will let things slip. If all the ISPs are doing it then there is no place to turn. People will have to make tuff decisions... oh wiat there are those contracts that you get stuck with for 2 yrs.

The FCC did not just drop the ball. They held it up in the light and closed one eye to line it up to just where they plan to drop it. The lobbyest have won. Customers will lose, whistle the wireless ISPs continue to do what ever they want.

The Internet is the Internet. Whether you give them enough rope or not to trip themselves. Why do we have to wait for something bad to happen.

To bad people are not motivated to to start their own networks all over again... It is creating anoth broadcasting envirnment where the ISPs are the new networks. They are de-democratizing the Internet in the name of spectrum transpot of out bits. I imaging broadcasters and ISPs will merge even more. Comcast owns Universal... I wonder what other ISPs own content studios and networks. Woe is us...

Give the ISP's a gun and theyll only shoot themselves...
ISP will block customers from desired content forcing customers to cancel services.

Through the growing pains, the all mighty dollar will speak. The customers voice will be heard, forcing change or loss of money.

$$$$$$$$$ speak volume to investors $$$$$$$

Leeoniya said,
this is bs. other than limiting bandwidth, there is no reason for all internet to be equal.

I am not asking for all internet to be equal, but I pay for 2Mb of bandwidth...I don't pay for .5Mb for youtube, .25Mb for Hotmail, .25Mb for gmail, .5 for gaming, and .5Mb to whatever else I want.

Please for the love of god look at what Time Warner, the big dog in my city, has stated multiple times: Why does youtube get a free ride on our network(paraphrased) - they want youtube to pay because I request data from youtube. That is bull, I pay for network access and to pull the data I want and/or need. It is not up to my provider to decide what I get at what speed.

If they want tiered data for voice/video/whatever, they can vlan their backend to another switch rack and only have the last mile to deal with. From there they can use the money I pay them each month, to upgrade and have the bandwidth they need to provide services. This is the reason I don't use TW, but others have no choice.

I see we are getting the typical replies from people who confuse net neutrality with government regulation of the internet. I have given up on trying to explain the difference to people here.

roadwarrior said,
I see we are getting the typical replies from people who confuse net neutrality with government regulation of the internet. I have given up on trying to explain the difference to people here.

legislation, bans, rules, and laws -- regardless of whether you think they are good or bad, are in fact regulation by the government. a principle that is forced by a government entity onto the private sector is regulation.

Pimpster said,
legislation, bans, rules, and laws -- regardless of whether you think they are good or bad, are in fact regulation by the government. a principle that is forced by a government entity onto the private sector is regulation.
I don't see the reason for your hatred towards government regulation, without which most people in the country would be suffering even more so now than ever given the recent recession and the next recession that's coming up soon. Did the government do something to you or your family? Or are you just thick to see how regulation and deregulation come into play in the real world scenario?

Pimpster said,

legislation, bans, rules, and laws -- regardless of whether you think they are good or bad, are in fact regulation by the government. a principle that is forced by a government entity onto the private sector is regulation.

OK, since you aren't bright enough to comprehend the difference I'll spell it out for you in as few words as possible:

"Government regulation of the internet" would mean that the government decides what you can and cannot access (think the Great Firewall of China, for instance, or the UK's recent internet porn ban).

"Government enforced net neutrality" would mean that the goverment tells ISPs that they are not allowed to charge differently for access to different internet sites or services, nor filter what sites you are allowed to access.

They are totally opposite, yet a lot of people here seem to get the two confused.

I don't like this one bit - NN in general, although this goes and proves how inept the government is when it comes to regulations. Net Neutrality basically comes down to who you trust more - the government, or private corporations. I'm pretty confident that Americans on the whole trust the latter.

The debate is somewhat silly. Courts have already ruled NN as unconstitutional and one of the FCC members correctly stated that they aren't Congress and cannot pass laws. I can't see a scenario in where this isn't overturned by the courts as a constitutional violation. Want to pass NN? Great, but go about it the right way instead of slipping it in through the back door.

For anyone blinded by ideology, this is exactly what happened. The FCC didn't like that Congress couldn't pass it and it was ruled unconstitutional, so they took it upon themselves to expand the power of their own agency. This cannot happen lest every government agency starts massive power grabs to expand their sphere of influence.

Don't like this, think it's a bad move. Only because as time goes on we will be relying on our cell phones much and much more. But hopefully this will lead to better phone competition in the future. We can only wait and see...

este said,
Don't like this, think it's a bad move. Only because as time goes on we will be relying on our cell phones much and much more. But hopefully this will lead to better phone competition in the future. We can only wait and see...

Not Likely. The whole idea behind deregulating (allowing theme to do/charge as they please) the cable business was that it would lead to lower prices through competition, and more choices for the consumer. What it led to was Tiered price gouging and in many markets the choice of one, and ONLY ONE cable provider because of contracts arranged with city, county, region. I know because of this I have one and only one choice for cable: Charter. sigh... Go with your first instinct about it being bad.

Lets hope if providers start doing this, Apple at least pulls out it's 'If you want our product none of this ****' card..

WTF?! Because a phone OS is open internet access should be controlled???

Yes that is one phone OS, not all of them, not apple, not nokia, but android, what were they smoking when this decision seemed like a good idea?

sidroc said,
Good to hear. Less government power the better .

What does it matter? At the end of the day, they're fighting for you, the consumer, on this.

At least... some of them are.

AnotherCanuck said,

What does it matter? At the end of the day, they're fighting for you, the consumer, on this.

At least... some of them are.

right, because a bureaucratic entity that has bitch fits over nipple slips and swear words is the answer to a problem that hasn't even manifested itself yet.

if the ISP market place were a much more free system (Free of regulation), you'd see some ISPs following a toll model and other isps following a model more like what they offer now. regulations tend to have the awful effect of destroying the ability to even start a company in a field like this due to the increased barrier of entry into the market place, which means ultimately this benefits the big guys. this will just strengthen the oligopolies already existing.

sidroc said,
Good to hear. Less government power the better .

I doubt you understand the magnitude of what this decision means, it has a lot less to do with government "interference" and a whole lot more to do with consumer freedom.

sidroc said,
Good to hear. Less government power the better .
In fact, more power to the government the better. The only problem is "who" gets the power. So the people are to blame for everything because they elect the government. The politicians, who are ultimately owned by corporations and who have stakes in various corporations, will continue to play on the human weaknesses to get elected to lobby for their interests. The same thing the corporations do through their product advertisements. I mean did you notice how various companies start playing Christmas songs in their ads right after Thanksgiving? Did you notice how the radio stations started playing the Transformers theme song now, when the Transformers 3 movie is over 6 months away? It's all supposed to get you in the mood to make purchases. So I don't see the how "how much power" comes into play in this discussion. It's the "who has power and what will he do with it" that matters most. Corporate Social Responsibility is merely a euphemism and it has barely done anything for the world. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Corporate_social_responsibility

Edited by Jebadiah, Dec 22 2010, 4:46pm :

Pimpster said,

right, because a bureaucratic entity that has bitch fits over nipple slips and swear words is the answer to a problem that hasn't even manifested itself yet.

if the ISP market place were a much more free system (Free of regulation), you'd see some ISPs following a toll model and other isps following a model more like what they offer now. regulations tend to have the awful effect of destroying the ability to even start a company in a field like this due to the increased barrier of entry into the market place, which means ultimately this benefits the big guys. this will just strengthen the oligopolies already existing.

Ok, let's remove the tin hat for a little bit and think about this...

Just because the FCC doesn't like boobs and swears doesn't mean that some other stuff that they have regulated is wrong for everyone... I mean I wouldn't want 2-10 year olds seeing boobs and hearing swear words on TV all the time... I mean come on....

Net neutrality is good for the consumer... if you think paying $25/mo for unlimited internet access in your phone is bad wait til your ISP starts charging based on where, what and when you use the internet... I'm sure it will be a lot more than $25/mo when it's all said and done...

It seems that the senile old farts at the FCC are getting several different concepts of "openness" confused here. What in the hell does Android (which, although based on Linux, really isn't all that open) have to do with the content you can access through your ISP? And mobile broadband covers a LOT more than just smartphones.

One thing is for certain, Net10 doesn't practice net neutrality at all. There are only certain web sites you are allowed to view on their phones. If you type the URL of another site into the browser, you are blocked from visiting it. There are supposedly some workarounds for this, but I've never gotten any of them to work.

roadwarrior said,
What in the hell does Android (which, although based on Linux, really isn't all that open) have to do with the content you can access through your ISP?
Absolutely positively nothing, but I guess Google could have brainwashed (aka paid off) these ****ers at FCC.

Wait, what?

"...we conclude it *is* appropriate to take measured steps..."

Unless I misread something, doesn't that mean they AGREE with net neutrality?

Murdoch takes over again! Oh Brilliant. The FCC cannot even do the basics and protect net neutrality. I am so glad I don't work for Murdoch. His empire is slowly being exposed. Google are just as bad in all this. They have signed up to this filtered news stuff to and they have hoaxed BP web sites just to prevent news from getting out! If the FCC rule in the wrong way all our freedom will be gone! BE Scared!

although in the uk there are some carriers that do the opposite and single out websites that can be accessed for free, i believe vodafone do, or did maybe, allowing free access to facebook and myspace on one of their pay as you go plans

Real nice. Give the carriers all the power they need to control how the internet is accessed for their customers. The FCC dropped the ball on this one.

Tim Dawg said,
Real nice. Give the carriers all the power they need to control how the internet is accessed for their customers. The FCC dropped the ball on this one.

Give the government control instead?

Beyon_Godlike said,

Better the government than ISPs who only seek to rip you off.

its a pretty big misunderstanding of how the government operates to think that they are out to protect you. career politicians fight for their own interests and agendas, and some of them intend good, but all of them think they know whats best over the people below them. you only become a politician because you want power.

if you don't like an ISP's service, cancel it and go with another ISP. if you think there isnt enough variety of services out there, then you should want a market that has less regulation which would decrease the costs to entry for someone to start a business in the ISP market place. the more regulations, the higher the cost to enter that market, and thus it strengthens the grip of the oligopolies in place. stronger oligopolies means in the long run, they can get away with more because they dont have to worry about being competitive or pleasing their customers. and the more government control over something like the internet, the more chances there will be of abuse. i mean it was just last week that we saw the UK government suggesting that they want to make adult content an "opt in" system on the internet (which is, as the ISPs say there impossible). but again, the more you expand the reach of bureaucrats and politicians, the less you have.

honestly do you want an institution that ****s their pants when a nipple is shown or a swear word is uttered on tv? really? these people are incompetent.

Pimpster said,

if you don't like an ISP's service, cancel it and go with another ISP. if you think there isnt enough variety of services out there, then you should want a market that has less regulation which would decrease the costs to entry for someone to start a business in the ISP market place.

While I agree with the spirit of you post, regulation is not the barrier..licensing is. Apparently you do not live in a city where there is one true high speed provider and the FCC bull***t 768k high speed provider.

The city has the right to license cable runs and such in most of the US and that kills competition instantly. I am lucky enough to have moved a few years ago and went from Verizon 768k DSL or Comcast cable to a city with 5 or so providers with decently close speeds. There is competition here, there was not where I was and it was all due to being able to run lines and exclusivity contracts between providers and the city. One cable company, one phone company...

Take your pick scented or unscented lubrication? But hey they felt I had "competition" to choose from.

Pimpster said,
its a pretty big misunderstanding of how the government operates to think that they are out to protect you. career politicians fight for their own interests and agendas, and some of them intend good, but all of them think they know whats best over the people below them. you only become a politician because you want power.

if you don't like an ISP's service, cancel it and go with another ISP. if you think there isnt enough variety of services out there, then you should want a market that has less regulation which would decrease the costs to entry for someone to start a business in the ISP market place. the more regulations, the higher the cost to enter that market, and thus it strengthens the grip of the oligopolies in place. stronger oligopolies means in the long run, they can get away with more because they dont have to worry about being competitive or pleasing their customers. and the more government control over something like the internet, the more chances there will be of abuse. i mean it was just last week that we saw the UK government suggesting that they want to make adult content an "opt in" system on the internet (which is, as the ISPs say there impossible). but again, the more you expand the reach of bureaucrats and politicians, the less you have.

honestly do you want an institution that ****s their pants when a nipple is shown or a swear word is uttered on tv? really? these people are incompetent.

As schubb2003 explains above, I agree that regulation is not the barrier. Over-regulation is. Having no regulation is == Playing into the hands of the corporations and damaging consumer freedom in the long run. Just like Cable companies and Mobile Carriers have a monopoly right now in various states in the US, and hence the monthly fee is whatever they charge for little speed increases, the same thing can and will happen with mobile. Price fixing, and Market fixing (you take this state and I'll take this state) is a common thing in the business as is evident.