So-called net neutrality nightmare in Portugal essentially a mirror of U.S. practices?

California Congressional representative Ro Khanna tweeted a seemingly nightmarish scenario of what could happen if the FCC’s plan to dismantle the Obama-era net neutrality regulations for ISPs, or Internet Service Providers, were successful.

The tweet:

Despite what looks like a sliced and diced Internet that forces subscribers to pay individually for subscription “packages”, the truth is far from what’s being portrayed.

The truth: Meo does not carve the Internet into convenient revenue-generating slices that serve itself. The Smart Net offer is for data packs that favor one type of content over another for mobile users.

The fact: The United States is already subject to similar “packages” – it’s just that they’re promoted in a different way.

At home, it’s called “zero-rating”, which means the carrier doesn’t count the data used for a particular service or set of services. And it’s extremely useful for customers with limited data plans.

For example, T-Mobile started offering zero-rated access to music and video streaming services more than two years ago. Last year, Verizon joined AT&T to create FreeBee Data, which is essentially the same thing, also known as sponsored data, where the carriers bear the cost of additional data served to users of these specific services on the web.

Advocates of net neutrality say that sponsored data puts some companies at a disadvantage. For example, Verizon’s FreeBee Data allows access to ESPN and its own video streaming service, but precludes other content providers from offering their content under the same terms.

As as matter of fact, under the former chairman of the FCC, Tom Wheeler, the FreeBee Data plan of sponsored data was found to be in violation of net neutrality rules, but not T-Mobile’s offering. But Pai chose not to follow up on the January decision that was made public just two weeks before Wheeler stepped down.

The reality is not as simple as the good guys vs. the bad guys, or the people vs. the man. It’s a nuanced and complex issue that’s caught between self-serving rumor-mongers and a public that laps up everything they say, to the detriment of actually arriving a viable solution to the matter at hand.

The FCC could be trying to kill the interpretation of net neutrality as the Obama administration saw it. Or it could be doing us a favor, letting ISPs have a free rein and then punishing the ones who engage in unfair practices, using the FTC as its muscleman.

Whichever way it goes, though, there’s always bound to be some disparity between what carriers, users and the government think is “fair” and “neutral”. From that perspective, net neutrality seems like an elusive abstract that can never really be captured and tamed.

So, what is the FCC actually killing?

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Sources: The Verge | Wikipedia