Friday, October 03, 2014

Vox Media lays out network neutrality debate in cardstack format; how the FCC's discretion is at the center of it


The FCC in 2005 decided to classify “broadband services” (as by Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon) as information services, because the Supreme Court allowed it to do so.  Then in early 2014 the Federal Circuit ruled that, since FCC had classified broadband services this way, the FCC couldn’t impose network neutrality regulations on broadband carriers, at last not in a straightforward fashion. That’;s the nutshell of the legal question, as summarized on Card 9 of Tim Lee’s explanation of the network neutrality debate in Vox “cardstack” format starting here.  It’s worthy of note that the FCC can still change its mind, but doing so could subject broadband services to other requirements, like screening fro obscene content (perhaps measures that could run afoul of Section 230 of the 1996 Telecommunications Act).

On Card 11, Lee explains that Comcast offered Netflix a whole new connection, not just a faster lane.  That doesn’t violate the meaning of neutrality, Comcast says.  My own experience is that Netflix instant play never stalls, but Amazon has stalled once or twice (but films usually appear on Amazon sooner and often must be rented separately, even under Prime). Long rented YouTube videos sometimes stall. 

On Card 12, Lee explains why the network neutrality debate has been less controversial or contentious with wireless networks than with conventional land broadband.  

This cardstack is a nice resource in following this debate (the topic for this blog), because the concepts in the network neutrality tend to get mushy in most conventional news reporting.  

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