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How the FCC’s great new net neutrality rules could ruin Netflix for you

Updated Mar 13th, 2015 11:02AM EDT
Netflix Net Neutrality

You just can’t please everyone… The Federal Communications Commission issued its final net neutrality rules earlier this week, and some people still can’t believe that the Commission issued a proposal that is so consumer-friendly. Under FCC chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal, Internet service will be reclassified as a utility and prevent some of the biggest threats to the free Internet, including paid traffic prioritization, data blocking and bandwidth throttling.

Sure there may be a loophole or two, but nothing is perfect. The bottom line is that everyone stands to benefit from the FCC’s new net neutrality proposal — well, almost everyone.

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More than 21 million students currently attend colleges and universities in America, and many of them soon may find it slightly more difficult to unwind with a little Netflix streaming in their dorms. As Forbes contributor George Anders points out in a recent column, the FCC’s new net neutrality rules will actually have a big pain point for students in dorms.

“If you’re working in a classroom, web traffic is more likely to be for homework, and more of our bandwidth should be used for that than for streaming media,” Anders quoted Saint Michael’s College’s computer science chair Greta Pangborn as having said. “In our dorms, the priority goes to streaming media, because the focus should be on entertainment in the dorms.”

Anders further explained the situation:

There’s every reason for students to be happy with this arrangement. It favors different types of traffic in different settings, all carefully done in a way that matches up with academic needs and entertainment desires. But playing favorites in this fashion — even if it’s what everybody on campus wants — flies in the face of strict net neutrality, a doctrine that argues that all packets on the Internet should be treated equally at all times.

Some will consider this to be overly argumentative, but tell that to the college student who can’t stream the latest season of House of Cards in his or her dorm because the university is no longer allowed to manage bandwidth.

Of course, if the new net neutrality proposal is made a law, it will be up to the FCC how it will enforce the rules.

UPDATE: As several readers have pointed out via email, Anders’s argument is misguided and invalid, as the FCC’s proposal would not impact private networks.

Zach Epstein
Zach Epstein Executive Editor

Zach Epstein has been the Executive Editor at BGR for more than 10 years. He manages BGR’s editorial team and ensures that best practices are adhered to. He also oversees the Ecommerce team and directs the daily flow of all content. Zach first joined BGR in 2007 as a Staff Writer covering business, technology, and entertainment.

His work has been quoted by countless top news organizations, and he was recently named one of the world's top 10 “power mobile influencers” by Forbes. Prior to BGR, Zach worked as an executive in marketing and business development with two private telcos.


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