ISP’s Won’t Commit to Network Neutrality Standards When Asked

In the wake of the FCC vote to kill network neutrality, a lot of eyes are on the ISP’s and what their next moves will be.

With the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voting to scrap network neutrality, a lot of eyes are focused on ISPs. A lot of people are wondering how ISPs are going to react now that the bits that flow through their networks have more or less fallen into a state of lawlessness.

The Verge wondered the same thing. So, they apparently asked the ISPs operating through the United States whether or not they would stick to the principles of network neutrality even though the laws have been scrapped. It turns out, no one would commit to any promises to respect network neutrality even if they did answer at all.

For those that did answer the media inquiries, the answers were quite mixed. Comcast said they don’t block, throttle, or offer paid fast lanes right now, but won’t commit to these standards in the future. AT&T said they won’t block or throttle content, but wouldn’t commit to never implementing fast lanes.

Verizon said they won’t block content in the immediate future, but won’t commit to never throttling content or implementing fast lanes. T-Mobile declined to make any commitments at all. No commitments came from Sprint as well, but they said they had no immediate plans to block websites. Charter makes no promises, but said it has no plans on blocking or throttling customers.

Meanwhile, Cox said it won’t block or throttle customers, but couldn’t promise it won’t use zero-rating or paid fast lanes. Altice USA wouldn’t commit to not blocking or throttling in the future, but says that it wants to keep those policies. Still, they wouldn’t say if they would prioritize one service over the other. Finally, there is Google Fi and Google Fiber. Google said that they can make no promises on throttling or blocking, but commented that paid prioritization would be harmful.

More from the Verge:

The FCC voted to put an end to net neutrality, giving internet providers free rein to deliver service at their own discretion. There’s really only one condition here: internet providers will have to disclose their policies regarding “network management practices, performance, and commercial terms.” So if ISPs want to block websites, throttle your connection, or charge certain websites more, they’ll have to admit it.

We’re still too far out to know exactly what disclosures all the big ISPs are going to make — the rules (or lack thereof) don’t actually go into effect for another few months — but many internet providers have been making statements throughout the year about their stance on net neutrality, which ought to give some idea of where they’ll land.

What is notable about the different responses is that the common theme, more or less, is that almost no one would commit to not implementing fast lanes or any kind of paid prioritization in the future. One way of looking at this is that this may be a hint of what they are eyeing first.

If ISPs intend to, at some point, start implementing paid fast lanes or other forms of prioritization’s, then it’s likely that ISPs are going to be gradually turning up the heat on innovators and small online businesses. That would be a move that makes sense because suddenly blocking everything would be a significant shock to the system.

By doing paid priority traffic, ISPs can implement a divide and conquer strategy. If some websites are able to pay for fast lanes, that puts pressure on other small businesses to give in to the ransom demands. Some businesses might hold out anyway, but the page load times lengthening would cripple them. As a result, those businesses would begin to starve out. If they can’t pay, then they basically gradually get pushed out of the market. That, of course, plays into what a lot of people say about the scrapping of network neutrality in that ISPs basically have the power to pick winners and losers in the market.

From the consumer side of things, the changes are much more gradual. Some users might complain about how their favourite smaller website is getting slower and slower. However, it will be a small number of people complaining. ISPs, meanwhile, can gradually threaten gradually bigger and bigger sites as they take heat in small portions from the public instead of hitting everything all at once.

This, of course, is one possibility on what the ISPs might do based on the hints from the responses The Verge received.

It is important to note that it is still early days and that the FCC vote won’t become the law for another couple of weeks. There is also the issue of the litigation and legal fights between lawmakers left to play out as well. So, we still have a ways to go before ISPs begin cracking down on the Internet.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Google+.

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