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US Regulator to Relax Rules on Net Neutrality

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The USA's telecoms regulator is to review the rules that govern so called Net Neutrality plans that would allow ISPs to strike deals with content providers.

The move could see larger firms able to buy improved downlinks to end-users from the ISPs, in essence preferential treatment. This is proving to be very controversial, as advocates argue for a dump-pipe scenario where all content providers are treated equally.

The regulator, the FCC had previously passed rules that would have enforced net neutrality, but these were struck down by a court earlier this year, forcing the FCC to review the rules and propose alternatives.

In a blog post, the FCC Chairman,  Tom Wheeler wrote about the new rules, and said that "to be very direct, the proposal would establish that behaviour harmful to consumers or competition by limiting the openness of the Internet will not be permitted,"

The new rules while permitting ISPs to strike content deals, they would not be allowed to block content or degrade it when supplied by a rival content provider, and will have to be open about what deals they sign up to.

The issue has been dominated by debate about how large firms could use the rules to deliver content to users faster than small firms, but this is already possible. Any large firm can simply host its content in multiple data-centers closer to the end users and cut down latency and get a faster delivery than a small firm based in just one data centre.

All the rules do it expand that preexisting facility into the pipes themselves.

However, it does also ensure more transparency than currently exists, even if there is some concern about the wording of some of the proposals which could leave open opportunities for ISPs to degrade some content.

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Tags: fcc  net neutrality  USA