The landmark vote regarding net neutrality that took place at the Federal Communications Commission this past week affects everyone who is tied to the Internet in some way. What's most pressing in this blog is the impact on video content creators and their viewers, and the passage of the Open Internet Order may have the potential to both benefit and hinder those parties.
Make no mistake about it; this is the sort of legislation for which net neutrality advocates such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation have been pushing. Analysis at the EFF notes that the bill will reclassify Internet service providers as common carriers under Title II of the Communications Act. That reclassification will ensure that ISPs are not allowed to charge for special content on their networks, create so-called "fast lanes" for individuals or companies, or block or throttle content or the speed at which consumers receive content.
Content creators: that means you should expect your videos to reach the public in a manner which is fair and unhindered by the opinions or political stance of an ISP. Viewers: will continue to have access to all your favorite videos on websites and set-top devices such as YouTube, Roku, and those platforms which use Zype as their underlying content management system.
Everyone, however, may have to watch out for a secondary effect of the common carrier mandate. Ars Technica explains that the Open Internet Order will likely give the FCC jurisdiction over agreements between "edge providers" and ISPs in the same way that it will have jurisdiction over ISP/consumer relationships. Edge providers are those companies which provide applications and content over the Internet; the largest edge providers are the major sites that consumers may visit such as Google or Netflix, and those sites can benefit from special arrangements with ISPs because it helps get content to consumers more quickly.
If the FCC was to enforce common carrier status and claim that ISPs are indeed offering a service to edge providers, the Internet as a whole could witness a significant slowdown when it comes to content available at the major providers we have come to know well. Ars expected that the rules in the bill could have received some last minute changes to lessen the impact such a law would have on those special arrangements. Of course, it is also possible that the FCC would show some leniency with respect for the overall good of major content providers and consumers -- the base on which this order should have been founded. It is hard to tell, at this point, exactly how things have played out. The full text of the order has not yet been made public, the L.A. Times says, and it could take weeks or months before the FCC releases the details.
Even with that shadow of doubt looming in the distance, there is a lot of good news surrounding the vote. The Internet has a chance, at least, to continue to operate with a sense of fairness about it so that all content is seen as equal in the eyes of the law. Here at Zype, we know that access to content is paramount. This looks to be a huge win for everyone involved.
Images courtesy of Backbone Campaign and Enzo Varriale via Flickr here and here.