Net Neutrality Put to a Vote

The FCC is likely to vote on regulations morning

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The Federal Communications Commission will likely vote Tuesday to approve Chairman Julius Genachowski plan for preventing Internet service providers (ISPs) from discriminating against rival Internet content or services by loading speeds or fees. These "net neutrality" rules will also impose fewer restrictions on wireless broadband networks and, for the first time, allow broadband providers to charge companies seeking faster service for games, videos, or other offerings more money. The next frontier in the battle over net neutrality will likely occur in court.

It became clear late Monday that the FCC's three Democratic commissioners would vote in favor of the measures, providing the majority necessary to overcome opposition from the two Republican commissioners on the five-member board. Impassioned arguments for and against the regulations have been pouring in ever since:

  • Government, Keep Your Hands Off the Internet, declares Meredith Attwell Baker, one of the FCC's Republican commissioners, in The Washington Post. Unelected FCC officials, without explicit direction from Congress, are taking unprecedented control over the Internet because they wants to, not because they have to, Baker claims. And in "replacing market forces and technological solutions with bureaucratic oversight," they may stifle future investment and innovation online while increasing congestion. "Why," she asks, "does the FCC plan to intervene in a rushed manner, days before the year's end, in the one sector of the economy that is working so well to create consumer choice, jobs and entrepreneurial opportunity?"
  • These Rules Will Protect Consumer Access, says Democratic commissioner Mignon Clyburn, as quoted in the AP: "The open Internet is a crucial American marketplace, and I believe that it is appropriate for the FCC to safeguard it." Still, Clyburn and fellow Democratic commissioner Michael Copps also feel the rules are not as strong as they would like, according to the AP.
  • Keep The Internet Free, urges Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak in a letter to the FCC in The Atlantic:
The Internet has become as important as anything man has ever created. But those freedoms are being chipped away ... Local ISP's should provide connection to the Internet but then it should be treated as though you own those wires and can choose what to do with them when and how you want to, as long as you don't destruct them. I don't want to feel that whichever content supplier had the best government connections or paid the most money determined what I can watch and for how much...
Imagine that when we started Apple we set things up so that we could charge purchasers of our computers by the number of bits they use. The personal computer revolution would have been delayed a decade or more.
  • The Rules Are Riddled With Loopholes, states Free Press campaign director Timothy Karr at The Huffington Post. "It's become clear that this FCC chairman crafted [the regulations] with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users," he argues. "For the first time in history of telecommunications law the FCC has given its stamp of approval to online discrimination." Karr adds that the regulations will let "phone and cable companies charge steep tolls to favor the content and services of a select group of corporate partners" and that exempting the mobile web from net neutrality protections "enshrines Verizon and AT&T as gatekeepers to the expanding world of mobile Internet access, allowing them to favor their own applications while blocking, degrading or de-prioritizing others."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.