On Dec. 21, 2010, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) adopted network neutrality rules, taking an important step in a policy making process that has been underway since 2005. Broadly speaking, network neutrality is the idea that internet service providers (ISPs) may not hinder or discriminate against lawful content flowing through their network. In other words, ISPs cannot filter or determine what consumers see on their computer screens.
The order is comprised of three broad rules related to transparency, blocking, and discrimination:
- Transparency: Requires internet service providers to disclose accurate information to consumers about the basic performance characteristics of their internet access and how their network is managed.
- No Blocking: A prohibition against blocking lawful content, applications, services and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network. Wireless service providers are prohibited from blocking access to lawful websites and applications that compete with the ISP.
- No Unreasonable Discrimination: ISPs must create a level playing field: they may not create “pay for priority” arrangements whereby some users can pay for internet “fast-lanes” while other users are offered slower service.
This order is sure to be challenged in the courts and several members of Congress have already vowed to introduce legislation to overturn the FCC’s actions.
Why is Net Neutrality Important to Realtors?
The business of real estate is increasingly conducted on-line. Streaming video, virtual tours and voice-over-internet-protocol are just some of the technologies that are commonly used by REALTORS® today. In the future, new technologies will be adopted which will no doubt require unencumbered network access.
Some real estate professionals, realty web site operators and real estate industry affiliated content providers believe net neutrality provisions are necessary to prevent broadband providers (cable and telephone companies, primarily) from implementing possibly discriminatory practices that could negatively impact their use of the Internet to market listings and services. Examples include practices that would :
- limit the public’s access to real estate websites;
- limit a real estate firm’s access to online service providers who may be in competition with network operators’ own services, e.g. Internet phone services,
- charge higher fees to certain web sites more for the broadband speeds necessary to properly transmit or display audio or video content such as and online property tour, podcast or phone services.
NAR supports the FCC’s actions today. We believe that codifying net neutrality principles will create certainty for consumers, network operators and content providers alike.
For More Information
Net Neutrality Ruling a Win for REALTORS®, Speaking of Real Estate Blog