Home Tech FCC closes ‘fast track’ loophole in final net neutrality order

FCC closes ‘fast track’ loophole in final net neutrality order

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FCC closes 'fast track' loophole in final net neutrality order

The Federal Communications Commission released its final net neutrality order on Tuesday, and includes some modifications to the draft version to ensure that Internet service providers cannot sneakily violate fast-track bans.

Speaking to WIRED on Tuesday, a top FCC official said the final net neutrality order was updated to ensure that paid fast lanes on consumer-facing products violate the agency’s rules. The official also said suppliers also could not disguise consumer products as business products to circumvent the rules.

In April, the FCC reinstated net neutrality rules that would reclassify broadband, once again, as a “common carrier” service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. By restoring net neutrality, the agency can prevent Internet service providers, such as AT&T and Verizon, from blocking, throttling or offering payments to access online services.

But many critics feared the draft rules were outdated and did not take into account new developments in technologies such as 5G and, more specifically, “network slicing.” Telecommunications executives have argued that network slicing, or the act of dividing a network into several smaller ones that vary in speed, should be exempt from rules prohibiting paid fast lanes.

Many industries and products, such as autonomous vehicles and remote surgery equipment, are expected to operate with grid outage. The difference, however, is that many of these products are business uses of slicing and not products marketed to consumers like their home Internet packages.

“The FCC has said that if a provider was taking steps that appeared to be taken to avoid compliance with net neutrality requirements, that could be a violation of net neutrality requirements,” Greg Guice, former director of government affairs Public Knowledge, said in an interview Tuesday. “In other words, you cannot design the service to try to avoid the obligations you have.”

The changes to the final order also address concerns that FCC rules could preempt state broadband affordability programs.

At the end of last month, a federal appeals court overturned a ruling that prevented New York state from enforcing its own law requiring broadband providers to offer low-cost programs. New York law requires ISPs to offer 25 Mbps service for no more than $15 a month, or 200 Mbps for $20 a month. On Tuesday, the FCC confirmed that its rules would not hamper New York’s program or others like it in the future.

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