The principle that all Internet content should be treated
equally as it flows through cables and pipes to consumers looks all but dead.
Federal Communications Commission said on Wednesday that it would propose new
rules that allow companies like Disney, Google or Netflix to pay Internet
service providers like Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send
video and other content to their customers.
proposed changes would affect what is known as net neutrality — the idea that
no providers of legal Internet content should face discrimination in providing
offerings to consumers, and that users should have equal access to see any
legal content they choose.
proposal comes three months after a federal appeals court struck down, for the second time,
agency rules intended to guarantee a free and open Internet.
Tom Wheeler, the F.C.C. chairman, defended the agency’s plans
late Wednesday, saying speculation that the F.C.C. was “gutting the open
Internet rule” is “flat out wrong.” Rather, he said, the new rules will provide
for net neutrality along the lines of the appeals court’s decision.
the regulations could radically reshape how Internet content is delivered to
consumers. For example, if a gaming company cannot afford the fast track to
players, customers could lose interest and its product could fail.
rules are also likely to eventually raise prices as the likes of Disney and
Netflix pass on to customers whatever they pay for the speedier lanes, which
are the digital equivalent of an uncongested car pool lane on a busy freeway.
groups immediately attacked the proposal, saying that not only would costs
rise, but also that big, rich companies with the money to pay large fees to
Internet service providers would be favored over small start-ups with
innovative business models — stifling the birth of the next Facebook or
it goes forward, this capitulation will represent Washington at its worst,”
said Todd O’Boyle, program director of Common Cause’s Media and Democracy
Reform Initiative. “Americans were promised, and deserve, an Internet that is
free of toll roads, fast lanes and censorship — corporate or governmental.”
the new rules deliver anything less, he added, “that would be a betrayal.”
Mr. Wheeler rebuffed such criticism. “There is no ‘turnaround in
policy,’ ” he said in a statement. “The same rules will apply to all
Internet content. As with the original open Internet rules, and consistent with
the court’s decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be
companies have pushed for the right to build special lanes. Verizon said during
appeals court arguments that if it could make those kinds of deals, it would.
the proposal, broadband providers would have to disclose how they treat all
Internet traffic and on what terms they offer more rapid lanes, and would be
required to act “in a commercially reasonable manner,” agency officials said.
That standard would be fleshed out as the agency seeks public comment.
for the full article in the New York Times.