The long-fought fight to keep the Internet as free (as in speech, not beer) and open as possible gained a very significant victory today, as the FCC ruled in a 3-2 decision to implement strict net neutrality rules and reclassify Internet service offerings as a Title II service. This ostensibly means that Internet services will be classified much like utilities are now, and therefor can’t be subject to the general bandwidth and pricing shenanigans that have begun to crop up. Unless you own an ISP, you can consider this a victory.
The ruling prohibits carriers from strong-arming content providers into ponying up more money to make sure their product reaches consumers. Before today, an ISP — let’s call them Fomfast for the sake of argument — could look at all the traffic that a streaming service like NBA League Pass was carrying across their wires and decide that they were taking up far too many resources to not have to pay a premium. Fomfast would then tell the NBA folks to pay them a fee of some kind, lest they wish their streams to be throttled, creating a poor experience for the customer. This has already happened with Netflix, and could have very well happened to services like League Pass, MLB.tv, FOX Sports GO, WatchESPN, etc. without today’s ruling. What transpired today means less cost for the providers, which means (hopefully) less cost for you.
In an interesting turn, the FCC widened the scope of their ruling to include mobile providers, so while it will still count toward your data cap, you should be able to stream soccer matches on your phone without throttling or slow-down problems.
We talk a lot about streaming sports online on these electronic pages, but in truth, a lot of the services and sites we mention could have looked (and cost) a great deal differently without similar governance in place. There would have been nothing stopping Fomfast or Fime Farner from holding our sports streams hostage in a pixelated prison until the leagues decided to let the providers in on the action.
The Internet has been such a large part of our lives for quite some time. It seems silly that it took this long for this kind of decision to be made. But at least it happened. And in a rare instance, a U.S. governing body made a decision about something before it became a really big problem. It’s a little sad that what seemed like such a no-brainer garnered two “no” votes, but fair-headedness won out in the end.
And just in time for baseball/MLB.tv season. What joy.