The only quote you need to read from the FCC’s net neutrality meeting

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler laid out the bright line on his proposed net neutrality rules during the Thursday meeting:

"If a network operator slowed the speed of service below that which the consumer bought, it would be commercially unreasonable and therefore prohibited. If the network operator blocked access to lawful content, it would violate our no-blocking rule and therefore be doubly prohibited."

The term "commercially unreasonable" is vital here. It's the test by which the FCC is proposing to determine whether an Internet service provider has violated net neutrality. Critics say the term is vague and could allow ISPs to give the FCC the run-around. But Wheeler is saying that although his plan allows a tiered Internet with faster lanes, the floor will be set at whatever service a customer has bought.

This potentially puts you in control of the speed of your own slow lane. Your experience of the Internet will still be powerfully shaped by what plans your broadband provider offers, and what their network policies are (e.g., whether they decide to speed up video traffic faster than e-mail, for instance). But if you buy, say, a 35 Mbps broadband plan, your ISP will be required to deliver all content to you at at least that speed.

Astute Internet users will point out that speeds on some broadband services — particularly cable providers — varies depending on network load and time of day; sometimes that speed might dip below a company's advertised speeds. The question is whether this would be a violation of the FCC's proposed rules, or whether ISPs could write it off as simply a function of the business.

Brian Fung covers technology for The Washington Post, focusing on telecommunications and the Internet. Before joining the Post, he was the technology correspondent for National Journal and an associate editor at the Atlantic.

business/technology

the-switch

Success! Check your inbox for details. You might also like:

Please enter a valid email address

See all newsletters

Comments
Show Comments
Most Read Business

business/technology

the-switch

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Next Story
Cecilia Kang · May 15, 2014

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.