The FCC's Net Neutrality Ruling: Conflicting Signals?

The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-to-2 Thursday to adopt net neutrality regulations, placing broadband under Title II regulations and classifying it as similar to landline phone services.

While the full impact of the ruling has yet to be determined, industry players have weighed in on both sides of the issue.

"This will ultimately protect innovation and protect a lot of up-and-coming companies that are providing really awesome solutions," said Andrew Pryfogle, senior vice president of cloud transformation at Intelisys, a Petaluma, Calif.-based master agent and Comcast and Time Warner master agent. "I think this decision perhaps even breathes new life into things like MPLS and the future of software-defined networking.

"We do a ton of business in providing high-speed Internet access to companies all over the world, but we also sell a tremendous amount of private network solutions, whether that be point-to-point networks, MPLS networks, fiber networks -- those same companies who are concerned about network performance, consistent delivery and making sure that their traffic is protected are now looking at the next generation of private networks, with SDN and so forth," said Pryfogle. "I think this could bode well for a company like Intelisys who does a lot in the global network space."

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Vince Bradley, president and CEO of World Telecom Group, a Malibu, Calif.-based carrier services master agent, said the company will dive deeper into network design and engineering to ensure that clients, especially enterprises, have the performance they need.

"It could help customers -- especially those with only one choice of ISP -- those that cannot afford premium Internet services and some smaller-niche business to get better speed and performance," said Bradley. "The larger providers will potentially have to invest a lot in their networks to make up for the changes that the new rules make in terms of performance. … Big business could suffer due to a meritocratic situation where all service is closer to being the same."

Ken Mercer, vice president of Telecom Brokerage Inc., a Chicago-based Comcast and Verizon partner master agent, said, "If the people who own chunks of those networks can control the content that goes over their networks at their whim -- whether it be ethical reasons, or business reasons -- we lose that flow of information.

"There are too many big players that control too many big parts that would profit and ruin the experience of what the fundamental basis is of the Internet itself," said Mercer. "There's a lot of app developers or smaller companies who can't afford private networking that would suffer. … It's like the cable company saying, 'You're not going to get ESPN anymore because we're negotiating over our rates.' There would be a blackout -- that’s a great example of what would happen with the Internet [without net neutrality]."

NEXT: Weighing In On Government Regulation

The government playing a major role in regulating ISPs, however, did cause some concern.

"Anytime the government steps in and starts to regulate an industry, that does make me nervous," said Intelisys' Pryfogle. "While on one hand they’re protecting the openness of the Internet and equal access to Internet for everyone, [the government] could take that too far and that would have detrimental effect."

In a statement Thursday, Michael Glover, Verizon senior vice president of public policy and government affairs, said, "Today's decision by the FCC to encumber broadband Internet services with badly antiquated regulations is a radical step that presages a time of uncertainty for consumers, innovators and investors. Changing a platform that has been so successful should be done, if at all, only after careful policy analysis, full transparency and by the legislature. … The FCC's move is especially regrettable because it is wholly unnecessary."

Pryfogle said the Internet is still young and the new regulations are necessary.

"As big as the Internet has become, in the scheme of things it's still at an early stage of development," said Pryfogle. "The power of the Internet is that you have a company that has a big idea, raised some money, and 50 employees can go out there and really rock the world with a new content strategy. And if you have to burden them with tremendous cost because of how it's going to be run over the network, I think you kill a lot of those types of businesses."