May 25, 2014
Internet Fate Now in Real Time
While the Internet is still relatively new, Federal courts, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and lawmakers have been discussing how to regulate it. And yesterday’s announcement by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler indicates a change in the Internet as we know it. In a statement, Wheeler suggests the commission will “split the baby” and allow broadband providers to charge what Wheeler called a “commercially reasonable” fee for priority, or faster, traffic. But he also pledged to prevent “acts to divide the Internet between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.”
Much of the legal murkiness stems from the FCC’s classification of the Internet as an information service, rather than a public service, like telephones, thereby giving itself less authority over how broadband providers charge and provide service. MN Senator Al Franken (D) has been a leading advocate for Congress or the FCC to permanently establish net neutrality by classifying the Internet as a public service. Franken said, “It is the free speech issue of our time.” He added, “Sanctioning paid prioritization would allow discrimination and irrevocably change the Internet as we know it. Small businesses, content creators and Internet users must not be held hostage by an increasingly consolidated broadband industry.”
Most of the Internet goliaths, like Facebook and Google, made public statements in support of maintaining net neutrality because they were once start-up companies themselves. Still the large, established providers would benefit financially without net neutrality by making make it much harder for new web entrepreneurs, like Facebook and Google once were, from business opportunities.
Surfing Without Net Neutrality
What adult’s life has not changed significantly by the Internet? From banking to communicating to reservations to dating and status posting, few people who were adults in the 1990s manage their lives like they did 20 years ago. We rely on easy Internet access, fast connections and instant information to get everything done. And the Internet has changed lives around the world. It’s opened the world for everyone with access, including broadening education and commerce to low-income people and those in remote parts of the world. Now imagine if the Internet was restructured with a kind of toll-road system. What if money bought better, faster access and those who didn’t or couldn’t pay the toll had to wait in Internet traffic jams with slow loads, routine buffering and routine frustrations with delayed web searches?
For the next 120 days, the FCC will allow public input until it decides on new rules for Internet traffic.