Rules meant to prevent internet service providers from discriminating against online content might not be the safeguard that schools and colleges were hoping for, as net-neutrality supporters believe the Federal Communication Commission’s new policy might lead to “bidding wars” that could leave smaller campuses without access to a high-speed web connection.
The FCC passed the rules, 3-2, with all three of the commission’s Democrats voting for the measure and both Republicans voting against it.
Republican opponents of net neutrality have long argued that the rules constitute unnecessary regulations for web providers and internet users.
The regulations prohibit unreasonable network discrimination—a category that FCC officials say most likely would include services that favor traffic from the broadband providers themselves or traffic from business partners that can pay for priority.
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The rules do, however, leave the door open for broadband providers to experiment with routing traffic from specialized services such as smart grids and home security systems over dedicated networks, as long as these services are separate from the public internet.
Steven Worona, director of policy and network programs for the education-technology organization EDUCAUSE, said the net-neutrality rules contain loopholes that one day could lead major internet providers to limit access to campuses that can’t pay premium prices for web service.