Transparency Rule for Net Neutrality

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In the “Matter of Restoring Internet Freedom Ruling” (FCC 17-60, p. 1), FCC has determined to include three optimistic lines rules, no blocking, no throttling and no paid prioritization to ban bad practices from ISPs’ providers of both fixed and mobile broadband Internet access service. The Commission has then looked for enhancing transparency rule by adopting disclosure requirements. In the following sections, we will attempt to demonstrate the reasons that justify the transparency requirement.

We will first identify the core problems that necessitates a transparency rule for network neutrality, define the policy objectives that net neutrality is attempted to achieve, describe the role of technology in creating the use and implementation of the new transparency rule, provide a position on the new transparency rule as compared to the prior, and present our position whether the new transparency rule will be successful. The new transparency rule for network neutrality seeks to guarantee that consumers are “treated consistently across the Internet ecosystem.”

It seeks to increase possibility that ISPs will stand by network management practices disclosure, open Internet principles. The full and accurate disclosure of service plan information to consumers seeks to gain most of the benefits of the net neutrality rule and to offer sufficient protection to consumers. Therefore, enhancing transparency rules beget the disclosure of promotional rates, fees and data allowances, packet loss, and a specific notification to consumers that a “network practice is likely to significantly affect their use of service.”

FCC discourse on whether an “Internet access plan violates its rules if a consumer files a complaint.” Type of services such as zero-rating and sponsored data application has required close regulation to ensure that the provider apply a best practice rule. The Commission requires a complete disclosure of Internet service provider’s network management practices, performance, and commercial terms of service. Such practice will promote competition, investment, innovation, broadband adoption, and end-user choice.

FCC wants to strengthen the most important rule for consumers which is the transparency. Under the new proposal, ISPs must disclose information about their practices to “consumers, entrepreneurs and the Commission.” This includes network management practices performance and commercial terms of broadband Internet access service “sufficient to enable consumers to make informed choices regarding the purchase and use of such services and entrepreneurs and other small businesses to develop, market, and maintain Internet offering” (Layton).

These “disclosures must be public and easily accessible because information is the foundation of a market economy, competition and consumer protection” (Layton) as states Layton. Truly, transparent information is essential for consumers to make knowledgeable decisions. The FCC 17-60 in its section ninety-three states that a reasonable network management must allow service providers the freedom to address legitimate need such as “avoiding network congestion and combating harmful or illegal content without running afoul of the rules” (FCC 17-60, p. 31).

The requirement of effective disclosure of Internet service providers’ network management practices, such as ISPs performance and their commercial terms of service will promote a healthy competitive market. Requirements will create competition, innovation, investment, end-user choice, and broadband adoption. For example, T-Mobile has launched its “unlimited streaming video plan call Binge On, offering the service to all that can meet the technical specifications required for implementation” (Sandvine, p. 10).

By keeping the general conduct standard, such development “should not unreasonably interfere with the access to someone who is trying to get to an edge provider and an edge provider who is trying to get to a customer” (Sandvine, p. 10) as states Mr. Wheeler. Mr. Wheeler went on to state that “it’s clear in the Open Internet order that we said we are pro-competition and pro-innovation. Clearly, this meets both of those criteria. It’s highly innovative and highly competitive” (Sandvine, p. 10). The use and implementation of the new transparency rule will promote innovation and consumer choice among ISP and edge providers services, and to promote broadband deployment in rural America with goal to “eliminate Digital Divide” (FCC 17-60, p. 41).

New transparency rules have created a set of best rule practices that are likely to keep ISPs on the right side of even the most rigorous Network Neutrality rules. Among these new rules, we can cite for instance openness, no prioritization, same commercial term, and transparency of ISPs. Openness consists to ensure that the sponsored data plan or zero-rating plan is “open to all members of a sponsored or zero-rated data class,” and not just available to selected content or application providers. ISPs should offer the same commercial terms to all data sponsors, and for “zero-rating ISPs should not be compensated by the content or application provider per unit of zero-rated data” (Sandvine, p. 13).

No prioritization rule consists of not prioritizing in the network zero-rated or sponsored data. Finally, the terms and availability of the plans should be transparent to subscribers. Reports to subscribers when accessing sponsored or zero-rated content or applications would help in transparency’s implementation. Terms that requires of content or application providers to contribute in a plan should be transparent as well. Many ISPs such T-Mobile, Verizon, AT&T offer service plans that feature sponsored data and or application zero-rating.

Plans are successful, beneficial to subscribers, and create feasible form of competition among ISPs. However, should the regulation definition only apply for a “technical management justification rather than other business justification? Are all these practices reasonable and what condition should be applied? Does the rule prevent providers from offering BIAS with differentiated prioritization that benefits customers?

We believe that an efficient network management should be based on both terms, technical and business. One without other does not provide the fullness consideration for the regulation to achieve its goal. Regarding the reasonable practice, we say that it depends on how reasonable is defined. But as far as there is no throttling and ISPs stand to the minimum speed or greater, it can be reasonable.

A reasonable traffic management must take account the resource reservation to improve performance during the peak time and to release resources during idle time, to have a good management of traffic prioritization, i.e. voice and video must have high priority over other type of data, and finally TCP connection termination process to control peer to peer traffic. Speed measurement can help the FCC to tweak additional rules if necessary.

Finally, the rule does not clearly state its position regarding whether the rule prevent providers from offering BIAS with differentiated prioritization that benefits customers. A problem can arise if the ISP favors a category of customers by allocating an important percentage of the total bandwidth to the detriment of other consumers. Therefore, it will systematically reduce the bandwidth usage of other party, which will follow a traffic degradation. In that case, the FCC requires to ISPs a periodical report on their traffic management to find out if a “throttling” is happening. Nevertheless, if the ISP has enough “pipes” or bandwidth, it can cover distinct categories of requests without throttling.


  1. FCC Federal Communications Commission FCC 17-60. (May 18, 2017). “NOTICE OF PROPOSED RULEMAKING”. Available at: https://apps.fcc.gov/edocs_public/attachmatch/FCC-17-60A1.pdf
  2. Sandvine. (2016). ‘ Best Practices for Zero-Rating and Sponsored Data Plans under Net Neutrality ‘. Available at: https://www.sandvine.com/hubfs/downloads/archive/whitepaper-zero-rating-sponsored-data-in-net-neutrality.pdf
  3. R. Layton. (December 14, 2017). “The FCC plans to increase internet transparency and enforcement. So why is the left against it?” available at: https://www.usnews.com/opinion/articles/2017-12-14/the-fcc-vote-on-net-neutrality-will-increase-transparency-and-oversight

Cite this paper

Transparency Rule for Net Neutrality. (2021, Jun 23). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/transparency-rule-for-net-neutrality/

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