WHILE MANY HAVE WELCOMED the unfettered reign of the Internet service providers (ISPs) coming to an end in the US in favour of network neutrality, a team of learned legal minds has warned that all might not be as it seems.
The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has decided that it will police the Internet to make sure that the large ISPs - telecom and cable companies, mostly - do not force a two-tiered Internet on the American public.
However a group of prominent law professors has warned the FCC that buried in the fine print of its proposed Net Neutrality rules are potential loopholes that if left open could be exploited by the ISPs in connivance with the entertainment cartels to undermine the future of Internet freedom.
Columbia University Law School professor and Free Press board chair Tim Wu told the Washington Post about the letter (PDF) after submitting it to the FCC.
Wu's co-authors included Stanford Law professor Barbara van Shewick, Harvard Law professor Larry Lessig, Yale Law School's Jack Balkin, South Texas College of Law professor John Blevins and University of Louisville School of Law's Jim Chen.
They said that the FCC's proposed rules don't sufficiently define what the commission means by its use of the terms "non-discrimination" and "reasonable network management".
The law professors agree that the FCC should police the ISPs, but it wants them to have a set of rules that the telecoms and cable firms can't slip out of like the slippery eels that they are.
Using these loopholes the ISPs could block subscribers in the same way that occurred in 2007 when Comcast secretly blocked and stifled its customers' Internet access, effectively preventing or hindering subscribers' use of filesharing applications such as Bit Torrent, the letter warns.
If ISPs have too much leeway that will effectively eliminate Net Neutrality, so it is important that the FCC should be clear as to what it believes the standards should be, they wrote.
Indeed, the devil is in the details, we reckon, so it will be crucial that the FCC gets this right. µ
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