Once again, the Federal Communications Commission is changing the way that Internet traffic will be handled within the United States. FCC Chairman Ajit Pai at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. on April 26, 2017, gave a speech entitled, “The Future of Internet Freedom.” During this speech (transcripts) Chairman Paj put forth the idea that Internet Broadband communication should not be covered under Title II. This statement means that the broadband or Internet Service Providers can treat different data, differently.
Currently, under Title II many of the services we use as part of the AV Industry are covered and protected as it prevents service providers from throttling the speed of connections for most traffic. Virtual Private Networks (VPN) and other services are not part of this protection. What this means is that your local Internet provider must deliver all the network traffic with limited traffic shaping or control, it is called the common carrier principle, and it is what applies to the phone system. That principle is what allows one to dial from an AT&T connection to a Sprint connection.
Through the suggested repeal of Title II for Internet traffic, that is no longer the case. The service provider can change the rates of data and which data gets through based on almost any criteria they chose.
Now comes the question that everyone is thinking, “Sure Bradford, you and Josh talk quite often about Net Neutrality and Privacy quite a bit. How does this impact me? Why do I care?”
I am glad you asked. Allow me to provide a simple real world example. Comcast offers packages of bundling certain applications and services with their high-speed Internet connectivity. For example, if you look at the Comcast Business Internet pages you will see packages for some services that they offer. I am going to use the backup services in this model as it is something I have done already for myself. On the product page, they talk about “Cloud Based Solutions℠ – Online Backup and Storage.” The services that they offer packages with for Online Backup are Carbonite and Mozy; I can not find Comcast’s storage solutions. There is a difference between backup and storage. Backup indicates that the data on a device will be regularly copied to a separate location. If the original is deleted, it will also be removed from the archive or backup after a period of time. Online storage means the storing of data whether deleted from the original or not. A user may remove it manually, but it will not be purged automatically if the original is removed.
For that reason, as well as others such as data durability, I decided not to use either of these services; I use JungleDisk. I have a single account and application that supports both data backup and data storage. I place files that I need easy access to on the JungleDisk Storage; I configured JungleDisk Backup software to backup my computer once a day.
Here is where Net Neutrality comes into play. Under the Title II ruling that Internet connectivity is a utility, most Internet traffic is processed equally. However with the repeal of the Title II that would change. It would mean that Comcast would have the ability to throttle or slow my communication with JungleDisk, reducing my success with the service. At the same time, they could prioritize traffic to their partners at Mozy and Carbonite. I am not indicating that they have or that they would, I am saying that they can. It would basically force me to use one of Comcast’s partners’ service instead of the one that I chose if I want an efficient process.
Without the protection of Title II, it would fall to me to prove that my traffic is impacted. One would also have to document that it violates the agreed upon terms of service from the Internet provider. After those two hurdles, it would be up to the Federal Trade Commission to investigate if the issue is an unfair trade practice.
All of these items are retroactive, except for Title II engagement. Under Title II it is proactively indicated that the favoring of traffic has a much more stringent set of guidelines and is designed to prevent the problem from happening in the first place.
Many of you know that AVNation is a member of the Electronic Frontier Alliance (EFA) organized by the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). I am supporting the EFF in fighting for Net Neutrality and ask you to get involved as well by going to the EFF page about this key topic.