EditorialNet Neutrality

F CC moves forward on contentious “fast lane” net neutrality rules

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Gary Smith May 16, 2014

FCC moves forward on contentious "fast lane" net neutrality rules

Despite numerous protests, online and in-person, the FCC announced on May 15th that it would be moving forward with its new proposed plan for net neutrality rules. These new rules, which would allow Internet Service Providers to open up a paid “fast lane” on the internet for companies that could afford it, have been vocally opposed by everyone from Google, to the average internet user. Nevertheless, in a 3-2 vote approving the plan, the FCC seems to be intent on moving ahead.

Does that mean this is the end for net neutrality? Not necessarily. At this point, the plan isn’t final. The vote is a step in that direction, but the FCC must still write a final set of rules and vote on them later this year, once the comments period has passed. This means that there’s still time to change course – and you can help with that.

Here’s What’s at Stake:

The concept of net neutrality means that no company should be artificially given an unfair advantage (or disadvantage) over another, in terms of speed or quality of service. For example, if two websites offer the same type of product, but one loads slower than the other, which are you going to use?

For a brief explanation of what net neutrality is, and why you should care, this short video sums it up:

Net Neutrality has been an embattled concept for over a decade, and the primary opponents have always been the major Internet Service Providers. Why? Because without net neutrality rules in place, the same entity that provides you with access to the internet, would also be able to decide what you do with the internet, depending on how much you – and the websites you want to visit – pay.

In a worst case scenario, the absence of net neutrality Internet Service Providers (ISPs) – massive corporations like Comcast, Time-Warner (two companies which are currently pending on approval for a merger), Verizon, and ATT – would have free range over who gets to visit what, and how fast.

Hypothetically, ISPs could partition off different parts of the internet, similar to how cable TV functions. You want to access eBay and Amazon? Well, for only $15 additional dollars each month, you can pick up our eCommerce package and shop to your heart’s content! There are other potential scenarios here too, but suffice it to say that none of them are good.

If this all sounds a little extreme, that’s because – potentially – it is. No one knows exactly how far the massive Internet Service Providers would take this, but as constant, vocal opponents of net neutrality, with no compelling arguments in sight as to why, you can bet they won’t have your best interests at heart. Just your wallet – and that’s only part of the reason why the internet is in an uproar.

Here’s What Happens Now:

When the FCC voted to approve the new set of rules, they also opened the rules to public comment for a set amount of time.

The first 60 days (until July 15th) allow for public comment on the initial proposal, while the second 60 days (until September 10th) allow for comment on the discussion that follows.

The FCC hopes to have a new set of rules in place by the end of the year, so that makes this period crucial.

Here’s What the Current Proposed Rules Mean:

To be fair, the FCC isn’t voting to throw out net neutrality altogether. In fact, it still sounds like they’re pulling for net neutrality, if you listen to chairman Wheeler’s statements.

Problem is, one of the proposed rules establishes a slippery precedent. In effect, this would allow large entertainment providers to pay for a “fast lane” for their content. So, while ISPs technically wouldn’t be able to pick and choose who gets to be at a disadvantage, they would be able to broker deals with large companies, allowing them an advantage over others – start-ups, for example.

This is the opposite of net neutrality; a fast lane for the few that can afford it, means a slow lane for everyone else.

It’s not just the general public that’s concerned, either. 2 of the 5 FCC commissioners voted against the measures, and expressed serious concern.

“I support network neutrality,” commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said. “But I believe the process that got us to this rule making today is flawed. I would have preferred a delay. I think we moved too fast, to be fair.”

"I believe the process that got us to this rule making today is flawed." - - FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel

Here’s What You Can Do:

Make sure your voice is heard by the FCC. Let them know that you oppose the selective adjustment of bandwidth and that Internet Service Providers should be regulated as common carries, by contacting the FCC through any of the means below:

It will take some time to plow through (I haven’t had a chance to read it in full yet), but you can also read the proposed rules in full:

September 10th is the day the FCC closes to public comment, so it’s important keep the pressure up, and keep the topic in the spotlight. If a fast-lane truly does open up on the internet, we may be looking at a long future ahead, where most of us are stuck in traffic.

In less than 120 days, the FCC will decide if the internet has a “fast lane” for the wealthy, and a slow lane for everyone else. Let the FCC know you stand for net neutrality, and a true open internet - not a pay-for-privilege web. Comment on 14-28 at: fcc.gov/comments

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