Net Neutrality: Not a New Concept in Utility Service Delivery

Thanks to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Net Neutrality is a hot topic these days.  Many providers are opposed to the FCC’s effort to ensure open access to the Internet citing rules that they say will hinder their ability to build new infrastructure and improve service delivery.

Open Access to Services is Not a New Concept

net neutralityIn many states today, you can choose to purchase electricity from competing generating companies to then be delivered to your home by whoever owns the local poles and wires that distribute the electricity.  The same is true of traditional copper phone service since the divestiture of the Bell companies.  In the case of electricity, your bill reflects distribution and usage fees.  With telephone service, your carrier builds the cost to lease the wire and poles from the local provider into your monthly charge.

Imagine that your electric distribution company decided to limit voltage to your location because you chose to buy the actual power from a different generating company, or that the company who owns the poles and phone wires cut your service intermittently because you were buying phone service from a competitor.  Thankfully, in the states who offer open market electric, there are laws to protect against that.  In the telecom industry, the FCC has rules to ensure that everyone has equal access to telephone service at reasonable rates.

What About the Internet?

We have professed for quite some time that access to the Internet is as important to any other public utility in today’s economy.  Imagine your Internet provider slowing down certain content or blocking your access to certain websites.

It does happen!

This actually occurred in various markets around the country when a major cable provider was in dispute with a major television network.  Initially the cable company stopped broadcasting that network on TV, and then it actually blocked the network’s streaming website so that its broadband customers could not watch programming via the Internet.

FCC and Net Neutrality

net neutrality

The FCC agrees that Internet access is a utility, and in February of 2015 adopted a rule “Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet” .  From the public’s perspective, this Net Neutrality rule addresses three major points.

  • Blocking – an Internet t provider may not block lawful content, applications, services, or non-harmful devices.
  • Throttling – this is the intentional slowing down of Internet traffic.  Providers may not discriminate against internet traffic based on who’s it is, where it’s headed, what the content is, or whether it competes with the provider’s business.
  • Paid Prioritization – the internet provider is prohibited from charging fees for preferential treatment such as access to Internet fast lanes.

The Net Neutrality Rule also allows the FCC to enact applicable portions of Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 as amended by the Telecom Act of 1996.  

In opposition of the FCC ruling, many major broadband companies and are contesting it in the courts.  The first test was decided on June 13th when a federal appeals court in a 2-1 vote, affirmed the FCC’s latest net neutrality rules delivering a major defeat to several major cable and telephone companies.  among those companies is AT&T, who is planning to continue to appeal, and fully expecting the US Supreme Court to have the final say.

OTELCO and Net Neutrality

Regarding the Internet, OTELCO has never engaged, nor will it ever, in blocking, throttling, or paid prioritization.  OTELCO is committed to open and equitable Internet access.