The heads of policy peeps just about exploded last month after the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down the FCC’s authority to stop internet service providers from conducting data discrimination (violating the informal principle popularly known as “network neutrality“). A couple of weeks of hand-wringing later, and FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski releases a statement outlining his plans to re-empower the agency to regulate the way by which ISPs manage their network traffic.
It’s a somewhat arcane policy principle, but in plain English it breaks down like this: the FCC classifies network service providers in one of two ways – telecommunications providers and information service providers. Telecommunications providers (like old-skool telephony) are subject to “common carriage” rules – this means the networks must not refuse interconnection, cannot discriminate against other carriers and customers, and cannot refuse the use of non-destructive applications on their networks. Information service providers, on the other hand, do not fall under the common carriage paradigm.