Net Neutrality and the New Reality of Who Might Get Sued

Inside the FCC’s Communications Act and what it means for integrator services like video conferencing, unified communications and remote monitoring.

Josh Srago

How exactly will our video conferencing and unified communications technologies be treated in this new way of looking at things? What about remote access to our customer’s systems via VPN?

Is the FCC going to only protect the traffic that is considered a content provider to the consumer? In that case, how are they going to define what a content provider is?

Taking that a step further, as we just clarified, wireless broadband networks are going to potentially be included in these new rules. How are they going to handle video calls between devices?

The language is exceptionally vague and immensely disconcerting for how networked AV devices that communicate across a broadband network are going to be treated moving forward.

The Missing

The biggest criticism that I have seen regarding the proposal has been that at no point does it address the lack of competition.

In many of the regions of the US you would be lucky to find more than one or two possible ISPs to choose from. But at no point in this proposal does it state that the regionalization of the major ISPs is going to need to be addressed.

They did, though, offer one way to improve competition in the regions that wish to pursue having a public utility provided by the local city or county that wishes to build a network of their own in that these new rules will require fair access to poles and conduits.

This is particularly good news if you’re hoping to see a Google Fiber network deployed in your region anytime soon. While this will be a positive in offering more options, those options will only be available if the local government can afford the cost of constructing and maintaining a broadband network, or if Google has an interest in coming to your town.

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Many have jumped on the bandwagon of saying that these changes will turn the broadband networks into a utility. However, there is a stipulation in the proposal that states the FCC will exercise forbearance when it comes to rate regulation.

One of the issues addressed in making certain services utilities, and having the heavy regulations that they do, is to ensure that the consumers will all have fair access to them.

If the FCC is electing to leave rates up to the ISPs, then they are leaving the consumers exposed at this point to front the cost of any potential network upgrades that the FCC themselves have recently required. That’s a loophole you can undoubtedly expect the ISPs to use to their great advantage.

Is This The Last Word?

This proposal that Chairman Wheeler has issued is just that – a proposal – and an extraordinarily vague one at that.

The vote between the five members of the FCC on this proposal will not take place until February 27th. There is also no certainty that there will not be modifications to the complete 332 page proposal by the FCC members to either strengthen or weaken it in favor of the public or the ISPs.

Not to mention the fact that two bills, one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate, are currently up for debate that would enact certain parts of this proposal while also stripping the FCC of the ability to regulate broadband networks in the future.

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And, of course, the ISPs will likely not take any of this lying down, lest we forget that this all started last January because Verizon won their case in the Federal Court of Appeals.

This fight over broadband network regulation is heating up, with FCC Commissioner Pai already firing back over the supposed contents of the proposal, and the AV industry has a pretty heavy stake in the outcome as it will undoubtedly affect how our networked device transmissions will be treated.

For a full background of how this issue has progressed since January 2014, please see my further coverage here.