April 23, 2014

The Wall Street Journal | The New York Times

In what would amount to a reversal on net neutrality, the Federal Communications Commission will propose new rules that would allow companies like Netflix and Amazon to pay for high-speed delivery of their content, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times reported Wednesday.

The rules to be presented Thursday would prevent Comcast, Verizon, and Time Warner from blocking or throttling individual websites called up by users, the Journal’s Gautham Nagesh reported. But broadband providers could offer companies preferential treatment for speedier lanes to get their content quickly to consumers based on “commercially reasonable” terms. Consumers could end up paying more for services if companies pass on the additional charges.

If adopted, the rules could in effect doom net neutrality, The Times’ Edward Wyatt wrote:

“The principle that all Internet content should be treated equally as it flows through cables and pipes to consumers looks all but dead.

The FCC’s proposed rules address a federal appeals court decision striking down regulations that had prevented broadband providers from developing agreements with companies for faster streaming of video and other content.

As journalists create more video and other rich media for users, delivery speeds in the “last mile” — the final connections to consumers — take on more importance. Some net neutrality advocates fear that giving preferential treatment to content providers that can afford the higher speeds could leave smaller organizations and startups eating dust in the slow lanes.

Net neutrality supporters reacted angrily to reports about the proposed rules. Free Press CEO and President Craig Aaron said in a statement that the FCC was “aiding and abetting the largest ISPs in their efforts to destroy the open Internet.”

Giving ISPs the green light to implement pay-for-priority schemes will be a disaster for startups, nonprofits and everyday Internet users who cannot afford these unnecessary tolls. These users will all be pushed onto the Internet dirt road, while deep pocketed Internet companies enjoy the benefits of the newly created fast lanes.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler responded to critics Wednesday, Time reported. He denied a “turnaround in policy” and said:

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 permitted.”

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