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FCC Draws More Fire On Net Neutrality

21 May, 2014 By: Doug McPherson

WASHINGTON – Even before the gavel’s smack in the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) meeting on May 15, voices opposing the group’s decision began rising. In fact, during the meeting, four people had to be removed from the premises, Reuters reported.

In a 3-2 vote, the FCC agreed to open for comment recently proposed rules that Internet service providers can prioritize some Web traffic over others. Interested parties have until July 15 to weigh in on those recommendations ahead of a final decision expected later this year.

Opponents say FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rules would cause an Internet “fast lane” where content producers could pay different rates to deliver websites, streaming videos and other content to consumers, giving them an unfair advantage over smaller players.

But Wheeler has insisted the rules would not ravish the concept of a free and open Internet, as some critics have feared.

“Nothing in this proposal authorizes paid prioritization. The potential for there to be some kind of a fast lane available to only a few has many people concerned. Personally, I don’t like the idea that the Internet could be divided into haves and have notes, and I will work to see that that does not happen,” Wheeler told the committee.

Still, two of the five panel members said they were uncomfortable with the speed of action.

Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said, “Before proceeding I would have taken time to understand the future, because the future of the Internet is the future of everything.”

And Commissioner Ajit Pai added, “Every American who cares about the future of the Internet should be wary about five unelected officials deciding its fate.”

Instead, Pai – former counsel for Verizon – suggested net neutrality might better be decided by asking economists to study the issues. “Getting the future of the Internet right is more important than getting this done right now,” Pai said. “Going forward, I hope that we will not rush headlong into enacting bad rules.”

Reactions from others after the vote included:

  • Candace Clement, a blogger for “Just as we feared, the rules pay lip service to the idea of the open Internet while proposing solutions that would create a two-tiered Internet with fast lanes for those who can afford it – and dirt roads for the rest of us.”
  • Sen. Al Franken (D-MN): “Today’s vote could spell the beginning of the end of the Internet as we know it, plain and simple. Because of net neutrality, the Internet has been a tremendous platform for innovation and connectivity. But the FCC has taken a woefully misguided step toward handing the Internet over to big corporations who can pay boatloads of money for preferential treatment. Anyone who values a free and open Internet should be deeply troubled by the FCC’s vote, and I plan to do everything I can to convince them that they need to change course.”
  • Nuala O’Connor, Center for Democracy and Technology: “The legal details may be complicated and controversial, but the goal is clear: We need safeguards that preserve the Internet as an open platform for innovation, competition and the free flow of information. It is uncertain whether the FCC proposal can fully meet that goal. Today marks the starting line for a new conversation, not the finish line, and Chairman Wheeler seems to be asking the right questions. Everyone who values the Internet now has the opportunity to speak up and be heard.”

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn reminded attendees, “We are only voting on proposed rules – not final rules. This item is an official call inviting interested parties to comment to discuss pros and cons of various approaches and to have a robust dialogue about the best path forward. This is your opportunity to formally make your point on the record. You have the ear of the entire FCC – the eyes of the world are on all of us.”

To comment: click here and select the “Open Internet” docket (14–28) at the top.

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