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Net Neutrality: Where Did it Come From and What does it Mean

honk for open net

The True Meaning

Net Neutrality in its purest sense is the principle that consumers should benefit from an open Internet where BITS are transmitted in a non-discriminatory manner, without regard for their source, ownership, content or destination. The reason for FCC involvement is because the industry is utilizing its infrastructure to segregate content and determine what the consumer will and will not receive at full speeds on the ISP’s platform.

Where Did the Action to Regulate Begin?

The Open Internet Order passed on 2/26/15 didn’t begin this year. The real meat of the matter began around 2002 & 2005 with the information service Classification, which was issued, by the FCC. Then came the 2008 BitTorrent Case where the FCC ruled against Comcast for its restrictive practices regarding file uploads. Though this case was successfully challenged in 2010 by appeal the precedence was set that Internet access was on its way to becoming regulated. After the appeals court ruling which rolled back the FCC BitTorrent action, the FCC pressed forward on Net Neutrality by issuing 2010 by the Open Internet Order, which established 3 core open internet rules:

  1. Transparency
  2. No blocking
  3. No unreasonable discrimination

And just last year Verizon v. FCC and the Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking which set the stage for ISP’s to do the following:

  • Apply core network neutrality requirements to broadband
  • Apply a commercially reasonable standard of conduct

You can see the entire court ruling here.

One can see that Net Neutrality was in front of us dating back to 2002. So, on February 26th of this year the formal adoption of Internet Net Neutrality was announced and though many were surprised, we understood this to be the logical extension of the FCC’s direction from the beginning of this century. And with the order came a broad stroke of guidelines with very little instruction. Now the core network neutrality requirements and the commercially reasonable standard of conduct become all of the above and:

  • Expanded core network neutrality
  • Possible imposition of requirements beyond (rate regulation)
  • Direct regulation of Internet traffic exchange marketplace
  • Impose a no unreasonable interference or disadvantage stand of conduct.

What does this mean to anyone who offers ISP to customers excluding the below?

  • Non-enterprise,
  • Transient/coffee shop exclusion
  • VPNS, CDNS, Cloud storage services, and internet backbone companies

Maybe it means no new taxes… NOT. What it does mean is the following (in order of importance to our customers):

  1. CPNI matters more than ever and you better have a federal and/or state compliance plan
  2. CALEA matters and a compliance plan should be on file
  3. TCPA matters and a compliance plan should be on file
  4. Exclusions and exceptions may be too hard to interpret or apply. Are you excluded based on the criteria above? Are you sure that you meet the exception? It all goes back to billing, supporting and books and records to some extent. Starbucks coffee shop transient offering ISP versus monthly billing plan offered by Starbucks.
  5. Are you ready for a bait and switch? We have heard forbearance on FUSF. Until when? FUSF at 17.4% already this year, we know there are only 2 options- expand or impose. The order in reality opened up imposition through FUSF, State taxes/fees, and franchise and pole attachment fees. What are these and how do they/have they impacted you for Telcom, VoiP and ISP?
  6. Disclosures matter; just ask AT&T and TWC. What amounts to disclosure? Emails don’t cut it. We will explain our disclosure procedures in an upcoming video (Part II)

What comes next?

We are expecting an end of 2015 update due to appeals and merit briefing. However, the FCC Broadcast Incentive Auction takes precedence and the FCC will tackle that first.

What can you do now?

If you have uncertainties on any of the positions of your organization in any of the requirements mentioned above or the media hype issues we have all heard about, such as:

  1. Throttling
  2. Blocking
  3. Disclosure
  4. Fast Lanes or Paid Prioritization


This piece was written by GSA who are the trusted regulatory partner for Stratus Networks. GSA serves the Telecommunications sector exclusively as a Regulatory Compliance advisor and Back Office Regulatory Outsource partner. GSA advises over 200 carriers on their ongoing regulatory practices, nationwide. If you would like more information, please contact, Matt LaHood, CEO, or call 404.220.9764.

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