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While it’s no secret that new Net Neutrality regulations were recently implemented by the FCC, and that internet service has been reclassified as a Title-II utility. The exact details of these regulations have, until recently, remained shady.

Now that the full text of these regulations has been made available, we can take a look at some of the finer details of the new Net Neutrality and Title II classification. Honestly, the document doesn’t seem to reveal too much that isn’t expected. Many are championing the new regulations as a victory, and advocates of Net Neutrality would appear right to do so. There doesn’t seem to be any secret agenda woven into the text of these regulations, but there are some unwanted relics of the past.

Of particular concern are the passages regarding ‘reasonable network management’ as it pertains to ‘copyright protection.’ These passages allow ISPs to act as the internet police, blocking and throttling customers they deem to be engaged in illegal activity. This is somewhat ironic because it was Comcast’s throttling of BitTorrent users that brought Net Neutrality to a head in the first place. Also ironic is that when the FCC discovered that Comcast was clandestinely throttling their BitTorrent users, they ordered them to stop. Comcast agreed to move away from this behavior and stated that they would find another way to manage their internet traffic.

After all that, one might imagine that the FCC would attempt to protect internet users from these types of actions with their shiny new regulations. Unfortunately, the FCC seems to have forgotten about this, and has left a huge loophole in their new document. A loophole which ISPs may be able to abuse.

The new Net Neutrality regulations don’t just repeat old rules regarding the blocking and management of copyright infringing data, but seem to further empower ISPs to deal with the issue. The document iterates several times that ISPs may block and throttle illegal content. On the surface, this may seem very reasonable, but the problem is… the document doesn’t set forth any standard for which to determine whether users are engaging in illegal acts. It seems to indicate that ISPs may block and throttle their users on the mere suspicion of illegal activity.

Meanwhile at Comcast Headquarters...

Meanwhile at Comcast Headquarters…

While it’s one thing for an ISP to block illegal activity based on a courtroom verdict. It is completely another for it to be in the position to judge or guess which actions from its users are illegal, and then block content based on their own assumptions.

The EFF’s hall of shame already paints a disturbing picture of overzealous copyright protection. This dubious honor goes to sites and services that were taken down by illegitimate copyright claims against a wide array of users, many of which did not have the means to fight the take-down orders. Orders that should have never been given in the first place.

Thanks to these loopholes in the new Net Neutrality regulations, we are looking at a situation where an ISP may block or throttle your traffic simply because you do something they deem as suspicious. It’s possible they could block entire websites. Even a place as notorious as The Pirate Bay may still have viewers that are not engaging in illegal activity. For instance, I may wish to visit the site to take screen captures or look at their forums to gather information for an article. There are also many public-domain items that are accessible from that site.

If ISPs choose to use these new regulations as an excuse to molest and inhibit the data of their users, we could find it a bit more difficult to use BitTorrent. It’s important to note that BitTorrent is becoming more popular for legitimate uses. League of Legends uses it to help speed up the downloads of their client. Anything that uses the often maligned Pando Media Booster uses BitTorrent, and Pando is included in many games across the web. It’s also worth mentioning that Microsoft plans to use BitTorrent style peer to peer as a means of disseminating updates for Windows 10.

In the end, it’s probably too early to raise the alarm here, but the wording of the new Net Neutrality regulations does seem to give ISPs unprecedented power to police their bandwidth. Whether and how they choose to use that power is the question. It may be that they don’t to do anything above and beyond what they are already doing. If they did decide to be more aggressive and block P2P applications and sites like The Pirate Bay, we can rest assured someone would cause a stink and it’d make headlines. For now, we must wait and see how things unfold…

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Benjamin Jeanotte

Hi, I'm Ben. I am a 35 year old gaming veteran. My first console was a Mattel Intellivision(released 1981, purchased 1983) and I have owned at least one major console from every generation since. With thousands of titles behind me, I am a harsh and critical gamer who enjoys hating on games as much as loving them. — I am not just a writer for Techraptor, but a huge fan of it as well. You will probably see my comments on many articles, not just on MY articles, but others too. I look forward to having some glorious discussions and debates with you all.

  • Domhnall

    Well I can’t say I’m surprised. It’s the government. They were going to fuck it up somehow.

  • Matt

    The thing to remember is this is all a regulation, not a law.

    That means it can be changed at any time in the future. By any president. Into all kinds of horrible things.

    This power should not have been given to anyone. The internet has flourished in a free environment, and this will only choke it down.

    You know WHY you hate Comcast? Because they’re a virtual monopoly protected by the FCC.

    Get ready for internet provided by the combined power of Big Cable and the DMV.

  • Nick

    I mentioned this back when people were trying to say that reclassifying as Title II was the be-all silver bullet to fix ISPs throttling connections. The skeptic in me didn’t believe this even for a moment.

  • Kutark Validus

    The sad part is all the redditors and people who went all apeshit about how great this was, and called everyone who said this would be the case morons and right wing nut jobs and blah blah blah. Sadly this is not a situation in where i relish being able to say “I told you so”…

  • Kutark Validus

    The most ridiculous part about all of this (and keep in mind im not defending comcast) is that comcast wasn’t actually throttling anything. There was some hardware (routers) in their backbone that wasn’t able to keep up with the load it was being presented due to netflix activity. Comcast and Netflix reached a business agreement in which netflix agreed to pay part of the costs of upgrading that equipment. Which was a perfectly fair agreement. So this whole thing about ISP’s throttling netflix and yadda yadda was actually BS. That doesn’t mean i wouldnt put it past comcast to do this, especially with the newfound power they have. But all of this stemmed from something that had never happened.

  • Ben Jeanotte

    That’s a great point concerning netflix… however it’s hard to prove and also, they were proven to be throtleing bittorrent traffic, which was what I was attempting to address in my article!

  • Kutark Validus

    Edit: Sorry, i missed the bittorrent part. Yes, i do remember that fiasco. You are correct.

    Edit 2: Also, really great article. Its nice to see a journalist who still values quality writing and readability, etc, in their work.

    Do you have a link to that? Not that I don’t trust you but all the research i’ve done shows they were NOT throttling traffic.

    Here is a link if you wanna check it out.

  • Ben Jeanotte

    Sure buddy, here are some links… I’m not saying comcast throttled netflix, but they did throttle bit-torrent. Also, Netflix believes that comcast was up to something with the delivery of their content, but they don’t know exactly what.

    Here are some links about comcast throttling bittorrent.

    Really, there are endless results if you search for “comcast throttle” have a look for yourself, but quite a few people and publications are well convinced that comcast did, and occasionally still does throttle bittorrent traffic.

  • Kutark Validus

    You are correct, i apologize, i edited my original post, i missed the Bittorrent part, so you are correct about that 100% and that was my fault. Either way i appreciate the links.

  • Audie Bakerson

  • I figured it wouldnt be perfect, but at least it’s a start…hopefully in the right direction!

  • Ben Jeanotte

    Heh it’s ok, I was a bit hasty about a certain part of my article that shall remain secret, and one of our editors caught it for me and changed it for me, so we can all be wrong about something 😛

  • Nick

    This is only partially correct. It wasn’t that netflix helped pay to upgrade the equipment, it’s that Netflix paid to have a direct comcast line to them so they can bypass the handoff to Netflix’s original ISP Cogent. Comcast and Cogent have long had issues determining who should be the one to pay for upgrading routing equipment between the two. It’s also not that difficult to look at historical data for netflix and see that over the years they have made up more and more internet traffic as a whole. From the US Netflix accounts for about 35% of all internet bandwidth, yet everyone blames the US ISPs when they have issues, when likely it’s Cogent who used to be the middleman between Verizon, Comcast, google, etc. Now I’m not saying that it’s all Cogent’s fault, but when these conversations come up, everyone likes to bash the US companies for throttling, but never mentions anything with netflix’s ISP Cogent and how much actual data is getting consumed at once. To me it’s more plausible that Cogent doesn’t want to pay either, and relying on Cogent to handle 35% of all internet traffic by itself may not be great. I really see absolutely no problem with Netflix paying to have direct lines to US ISPs and their customers, It’s an inevitability of wanting to stream your content down faster. Also, just for comparison, youtube is in the 17-20% range, meaning it handles half as much data. Hulu was only sitting at ~3% and Amazon wasn’t even on the list.

  • Psichaos

    Not a surprise that the administration that attempted to pass SOPA snuck in a favor for their buddies/owners in the MPAA. That said, the net neutrality decision is still better than without it, when these crony ISP companies hold anti-competitive duopolies across the US. What we ought to be doing is promote competition in the ISP scene and allow small businesses to flourish so the government doesn’t need to step in, but that will never happen so long as people with money can just buy representation.