On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a proposal to fill the legal vacuum left created by a federal court ruling against key provisions of the FCC's net neutrality rules in January. The proposed rules would officially allow internet service providers (ISPs) to manage traffic in "commercially reasonable" ways as opposed to treating it as a utility. The ruling would enable ISPs to make deals with content providers that grant the latter privileged access to the ISP's network, effectively creating what many call an internet fast lane.
Even though the proposal comes with a set of rules meant to prevent ISPs from punishing content providers that don't pay up, it runs counter the principle of net neutrality that states all data on the internet should be treated equally.
What happens when content companies pay ISPs for priority access, is nicely illustrated using the example of the deal struck between Netflix and Comcast in February. In April, the average connection speed of Netflix users on Comcast's broadband network was more than 80 percent higher than it was in January, before the agreement had been reached.
The FCC's proposals are now open for public discussion, and it will likely take months before the final rules are set. If the proposal goes through, net neutrality will officially be a thing of the past, and we're likely going to see a lot more deals like the one struck by Netflix and Comcast.
This chart illustrates how the Netflix connection speeds of Comcast subscribers have improved dramatically after the two companies had struck a deal allowing Netflix direct access to Comcast's broadband network.
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