Yesterday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted network neutrality rules, taking an important step in a policy making process that has been underway since 2005. Broadly speaking, network neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) may not hinder or discriminate against lawful content flowing through their network. In other words, ISPs cannot filter or determine what consumers see on their computer screens. Lani posted about this issue earlier this month, and I have written on the topic previously here and here.
While the final text of the order is not yet released, according to an FCC press release the order is comprised of three broad rules:
1) Transparency: Requires Internet service providers to disclose accurate information to consumers about the basic performance characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is managed.
2) No Blocking: A prohibition against blocking lawful content, applications, services and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network. Wireless service providers are prohibited from blocking access to lawful websites and applications that compete with the ISP.
3) No Unreasonable Discrimination: ISPs must create a level playing field; they may not create “pay for priority” arrangements whereby some users can pay for Internet “fast-lanes” while other users are offered slower service.
This order is sure to be challenged in the courts and several members of Congress have already vowed to introduce legislation to overturn the FCC’s actions. Groups that both support and oppose network neutrality have criticized the order. In Washington, that usually means a good balance has been struck. The upshot is that we will certainly see more debate and possibly additional action on this issue in the weeks and months to come.
Yesterday’s move by the FCC creates a good opportunity to explain how NAR arrived at its position in support of network neutrality principles. While this issue is contentious and there is no doubt that NAR members will line up on both sides, NAR considered how the issue would affect its members in the conduct of their businesses. The Business Issues Committee—the NAR public policy committee with jurisdiction over this issue– heard from experts on both sides of the issue and approved a position supporting network neutrality principles. That policy statement was then approved by the NAR Public Policy Coordinating Committee and the NAR Board of Directors. NAR committee members considered the following rationale:
Why is Net Neutrality Important to Realtors®?
Anyone who reads Agent Genius knows that the real estate business is increasingly conducted on-line. Streaming video, virtual tours and VOIP are just some of the technologies commonly used by REALTOR®s today. In the future, new technologies will no doubt require unfettered network access. For this reason NAR believes that net neutrality principles are necessary to prevent ISPs from implementing possibly discriminatory practices that could harm REALTOR®s use of the Internet to market their listings and services. Examples include: limiting the public’s access to real estate websites or charging certain websites more for the broadband speeds necessary to properly transmit or display video content.
NAR supports the FCC’s actions and believes that codifying net neutrality principles will create certainty for consumer, network operators and content providers alike.
What do you think about the action taken by the FCC yesterday? How will the new rules affect your business?