Net Neutrality May Have Repercussions

America’s FCC chairman, Julius Genachowski, is looking at setting up some rules over net neutrality.

In what could be an interesting precedent that will have some Aussie Telco’s and ISPs looking on with interest, the Federal Communications Commission chair, Julius Genachowski, is about to set up some rules with regard to net neutrality.

So what is net neutrality? It’s a phrase made up by Internet users who don’t like the tendency of the network owners (read Telstra, Optus etc) to prioritise content – at a price. Telcos say they do this because there is only limited capacity on the net and those who are into file sharing and video streaming are ‘hogging’ the net at the expense of others. Cynics say it just an excuse for Telcos to charge more.

In fact, in a ZDNet article last year a couple of Australian ISP providers went as far as to say it was only a US problem because, Stateside, they truly do offer unlimited plans and so room on the networks was becoming squeezed. Not so here at the moment.

Genachowski will be making a speech tomorrow where he is set to reaffirm Barack Obama’s support of net neutrality, which will not be good news for the network providers. According to an article on hosted news, the chair “was expected to propose that the FCC clarify its current net neutrality principles and add on a new one which would require carriers to practice ‘reasonable’ network management” as well as “propose that rules against blocking or slowing Web traffic should also apply to wireless-phone companies, which currently restrict data flow over their airwaves to prevent congestion.”

As mentioned, ISPs in Australia see this as a US-only problem because here we are discouraged from going too over the top with usage due to capped plans and very expensive costs if you go over your data limit. However, with the usage of the Internet only increasing, and network carriers being pretty cutthroat when it comes to plans, as well as capacities being increased when the NBN is completed, it is probably only a matter of time before true “unlimited” plans are offered – and then net neutrality will also become an Australian consumer issue, too.