“Net Neutrality” Issue Comes To Fore With Broadband Gains in the U.S. and the EU     Print Email

“Net neutrality” and governments’ authority to regulate the internet, including service providers who provide the “pipes” for web postings, has risen in acute fashion in the U.S. This month a federal court ruled that the FCC had overstepped the bound of its authority when it sought to order Comcast, one of two big cable/telephone/internet providers that dominate the U.S. market, to stop slowing the delivery speeds of some clients that consume a great deal of bandwidth.

The ruling risks destabilizing the outlook for investors and potentially undermining the Obama administration’s drive to provide high-speed internet access (at affordable prices) to parts of the country and society that are under-served by this new technology. .

The debate is ongoing, and Congress has promised to work on creating new legislation to give the FCC the authority it needs to regulate the internet. Some view the ruling as giving providers the ‘green light’ to do whatever they want with their internet services, since it has further reduced the FCC’s influence. A solution being aired is to increase the FCC’s authority by the internet to its existing authority over telephone communications.

In Europe, a similar debate is taking place, with an emphasis on “transparency” about the practices in this field Europe-wide and in member states. A discussion is under way in the European Parliament about increasing the powers of the European Commission and national governments to regulate the internet with a view to imposing a ”minimum quality of service” standard. Critics contend this is liable to increase costs for consumers (worsening the economic crisis) and creating confusion and conflicts that impede innovation.

Written by Basil Maudave