KEY POINTS

  • The FCC's newest set of rules on net neutrality aim to ensure fair and unfettered access to the internet by explicitly enforcing "bright-line rules," which prohibit the practices of blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization of data.
  • The rules, which went into effect on June 12, also reclassify mobile broadband – or internet access from any mobile device – as a telecom service, and they grant the FCC permission to impose more strenuous regulations on broadband carriers. There are now more mobile-only users in the US than desktop-only users.
  • There are exemptions to the current net neutrality rules that allow for case-by-case rulings by the FCC and keep open practices like interconnection agreements, in which digital media companies and delivery networks pay ISPs for bringing their bandwidth-intensive content to consumers.
  • Large telecoms like AT&T and Comcast have argued that greater government regulation will force them to suspend network and infrastructure investments for both wireline and wireless broadband and thereby disadvantage the average US consumer. There is no question of the need for infrastructure investment: The US leads in 4G and LTE development but is behind the curve on 5G.
  • Consumers and pro-net neutrality companies like Etsy and Sprint argue that enacting net neutrality in some form is important to protecting competition and fostering innovation in mobile and digital content, and preserving fair access to consumers.
  • It's unlikely that the rules will remain in their current form. Pending lawsuits and efforts by Congress to pass net neutrality measures are likely to change the FCC's net neutrality implementation, at least in part. 

Introduction

Net neutrality – the concept that all data transmitted over the internet, from all sources, ranging from established digital content companies like Netflix to budding online startups to indie blogs, should be treated equally – has been a hot-button issue for more than a decade. And as access to the internet has evolved, the rules of net neutrality have, too. In particular, the latest movement to mobile internet has forced a change in net neutrality application.

The US population's growing dependence on mobile internet prompted FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to incorporate mobile broadband into the agency's most recent rules on net neutrality. Mobile broadband refers to wireless internet accessed through any mobile device, including smartphones and tablets, via wireless modems or the mobile [...]