Tech policy geeks (myself included) in Washington were focused on network neutrality this week. That’s because last October, the Federal Communication Commission issued a set of proposed network neutrality rules and Thursday was the deadline for public comment. This is a good opportunity to talk about exactly what the FCC is up to and what it means for the real estate industry.
What the Heck is Net Neutrality?
The term network neutrality refers to the idea that internet service providers (phone, cable and now wireless phone companies) should not be allowed to block, degrade or discriminate against online content, services or applications on the web.
Sounds reasonable, right? That’s the way it works now isn’t it? Well not exactly. Today, network operators decide on their own whether to comply with voluntary net neutrality standards. The voluntary standards call for ISPs to allow subscribers to send and receive any lawful content, run any lawful applications and services, and to connect devices to their computers, laptops as long as those devices do not damage providers’ networks.
What is the FCC trying to do?
The FCC has proposed putting rules in place that would make these voluntary standards mandatory. The Commission is also proposing to expand the rules to require that network operators to treat lawful content, applications and services the same. In other words, IPS would be prohibited from giving preferential treatment to their own network traffic. This is called the “non-discrimination” principle. What’s more, the commission is considering whether to make operators disclose network management information so users can decide if they are getting the services they are paying for and to ensure operators are not manipulating their networks to favor their own services . This is the “transparency” principle. Finally, the FCC wants to make all of this apply to wireless broadband services. Today, wireless has no such rules—voluntary or otherwise.
Why Should You Care?
I don’t have to tell AG readers that the business of real estate is increasingly moving online. Here’s a paragraph I pulled from the comment letter NAR filed this week.
“The Internet has become an indispensible tool in the home buying and selling process. In fact, the 2009 NAR Profile of Homebuyers and Sellers found that one-third of homebuyers begin their property search by looking for properties online. For buyers under the age of 44, that figure jumps to half of all homebuyers. Ninety percent of all home buyers used the Internet to search for homes and ninety percent of sellers reported that their home was listed or advertised on the Internet. These statistics point out how essential the Internet is to consumers and the real estate industry. Realtors® are important Internet content providers to the home buying public. As a result, access to fast, efficient and cost effective internet service is critical to the real estate industry.”
NAR supports the FCC’s proposal to make network neutrality principles mandatory and to expand them to include all broadband services whether wireline or wireless. If you want to read the NAR comment letter you can find it here:
Photo courtesy of Flickr by paltelegraph