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Battleground Forms Over New Net Neutrality Rules

14 May, 2014 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – The boxing ring featuring a fight over newly suggested Federal Communications Commission (FCC) net neutrality rules is getting crowded. In one corner, several U.S. Senators, Google, Amazon and even a member of the FCC have gathered during the past few days to call on the agency’s chairman, Tom Wheeler, to delay implementing the recently tweaked rules. In the other corner: telecommunications giants AT&T and Comcast.

The clock is ticking. Wheeler aims to get the open Internet rules before the commission at its May 15 meeting where members would vote on whether to put the proposal out for public comment before adopting a final version. Analysts say the recent mounting opposition may prevent Wheeler from mustering enough votes to issue the proposed rules.

Jessica Rosenworcel, one of three Democrats on the five-member commission, says a delay is warranted because of a “torrent of public response” to the idea that the commission’s rules might create a fast lane on the Internet for companies willing to pay for it.

Amazon, Google and more than 100 other software, social-media and technology companies wrote in a letter to the FCC that they oppose the rules, that those rules may let telephone-service and cable providers “discriminate both technically and financially” and that they would be “a grave threat to the Internet.” Other signers included Facebook, Netflix and Microsoft Corp.

On Friday, a group of 11 senators urged Wheeler to abandon the plan, arguing that sanctioning pay-for-play treatment would “irrevocably change the Internet as we know it.” The letter was signed by Sens. Ron Wyden (D-OR), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Al Franken (D-MN), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), and Barbara Boxer (D-CA).

The FCC has said Wheeler intends to go ahead with his planned introduction of a proposal. Rosenworcel said the commission needs to stop and take a breath to allow the FCC’s legal experts to engage the public in an online dialog about what net neutrality means and how, or whether, it should be enforced.

The idea that all Internet content should be treated equally as it flows from content providers to consumers and back, known as net neutrality, has been debated for at least a decade. A federal appeals court has twice thrown out FCC attempts to codify permissible behavior among companies that provide high-speed Internet service.

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