FCC Rule Could Change What You See on the Internet

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently mulling a proposal that could change how we use the internet – more specifically, let internet service providers charge higher premiums for select content and possibly slow the connection and quality of other content.

The proposal allows for the creation of, at the very least, a two-tiered internet system where one system would be known as the “fast lane.” The proposed rule would effectively put an end to well-established internet rules known as “net neutrality,” the principle that all internet service providers and the government should treat all internet content and data equally, not discriminating or charging differently by user, content, site, platform, application, equipment, etc.

So far the best explanation to date was delivered by late night television host John Oliver in a (profanity-laced) segment on HBO’s “Last Week Tonight.”

The core concept of “net neutrality” is not new. Similar rules known as “common carriage” have been applied for centuries to facilities central to everyday American life and the economy, such as railroads, public highways, canal systems and telephone networks.  Common carrier rules are currently written into the Telecommunications Act of 1996. However, they have not been applied to broadband internet communications.

The biggest proponents of this new rule are cable companies, who stand to make record profits if approved. Corporations and special interest groups are also chomping at the bit for the chance to beefup access to their content and stifle their opponents.

“What the FCC is proposing is the right to open the internet up to the highest bidder,” said IAM International President Tom Buffenbarger. “Corporations that disagree with a controversial issue and special interest groups with deep pockets could effectively change both what you can see on the internet and the quality of your connection. The internet will no longer be an open medium, but one in which cable providers play favorites and the only content getting through are those belonging to companies and organizations who are willing and able to ‘pay to play.’ Not one in which the best ideas and services can reach consumers based on merit.”

Democratic lawmakers are proposing legislation that would force the FCC to ban fast lanes on the internet. The proposal, put forward by Senate Judiciary Committee chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Rep. Doris Matsui (D-CA), requires the FCC not allow internet providers to speed up certain types of content at the expense of others.

Consumer advocates also suggest the FCC reclassify broadband as a utility, subjecting internet service providers to greater regulation.

The FCC is currently seeking public comment on the proposed rule. Click here to tell the FCC to protect your right to a fair and open internet.