The battle between Internet Service Providers and consumer advocacy groups reached an important milestone. New FCC chairman Julius Genachowski threw his weight behind initiatives designed to prevent ISPs from blocking or penalizing bandwidth intensive traffic, such as video files, and ordered them to manage their networks in a more transparent manner.Concerns about how ISPS manage their networks surfaced forked over
when it became known that Comcast was making it difficult for some customers to run peer-to-peer applications. Carriers, such as Comcast, were concerned that select individuals or companies would generate so much traffic that it would become difficult for other customers to access the Internet. A controversy ensued that pitted ISPs against various consumer protection groups, who demanded that users be able to send as much information as they desire.
The FCC clearly took the latter position. Chairman Genachowski proposed two new principles. The first prevents ISPs from discriminating against particular Internet content or applications, and the second principle ensures that they are transparent about their network management practices.
It is unclear what impact the changes will have on small and medium businesses. Service providers have been spending a lot of money to upgrade their networks, so they can support high bandwidth applications. To offset those costs, carriers, such as Comcast, were poised to move to differentiated services and start charging bandwidth hogs more for their network use. Perhaps, ISPs will find new revenue streams to defray the cost of their network upgrades or maybe, these costs will have be spread out evenly among all Internet users. Time will tell.