On May 15, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will meet to determine the fate of net neutrality. And based on everything that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said, we’re about to witness the death of the internet as we know it.
You see, until January of this year, net neutrality laws made sure the internet was an even playing field. Service providers had to treat all content, from websites and applications to cloud services, equally.
But on January 14, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit Court struck down the FCC’s Open Internet Order, laying a huge blow to net neutrality and paving the way for Chairman Wheeler’s current proposal to “fix” internet equality.
Unfortunately, Wheeler’s proposed solution would do anything but fix net neutrality. Instead, it would open the door for an internet “fast lane,” where service providers would be allowed to offer greatly increased speeds in return for a hefty fee.
Needless to say, this would be a huge benefit for the few companies that could afford such treatment. Meanwhile, startups, nonprofits and nearly all of us regular folk would be relegated to the “slow lane,” unable to compete with the hyperdrive speeds available to wealthy corporations.
There’s a More Sensible Solution
The internet fast lane is something that service providers have wanted for years. The profit potential is enormous, and content providers can just pass the increased costs on to consumers – making you and me the biggest losers.
Sadly, the one man with the power to regulate this kind of discrimination seems happy to give the service providers whatever they’d like. It’s not that surprising, either. Chairman Wheeler is a former cable industry lobbyist who, according to Mercury News, “earned a living for more than a decade [by] offering campaign donations in exchange for Congressional favors for big corporations.”
And even though his proposal has faced an incredible amount of backlash, he hasn’t backed away from the plan. Instead, he’s weakly defended his stance, saying that providers wouldn’t be able to slow down other, less preferential content to make up for the boost given to “fast lane” content.
On top of that, Mr. Wheeler says the proposal is better than the alternative – a vague law against “unreasonable discrimination” that would be difficult to enforce and would likely lead to unchecked abuse.
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But the real problem here is that Wheeler has completely ignored the most sensible – albeit difficult – solution.
Luckily, Mozilla, creator of the Firefox web browser, has taken it upon itself to point out this solution by filing an alternative proposal. Mozilla’s plan would restore net neutrality without destroying what Chairwoman Mitchell Baker and former CEO John Lilly called “the miracle of the internet.”
“Our petition asks the FCC to adopt a modern understanding of the internet in a way to reach Title II directly and quickly,” said Chris Riley, Senior Policy Engineer at Mozilla. “This will also ensure that the FCC can adopt meaningful net neutrality rules with no blocking and no paid prioritization that will stand up in court.”
Riley is essentially repackaging an old idea with a new twist. The old idea – Title II classification – would make it possible for “common carrier” rules to apply to internet regulation, meaning service providers would be forced to operate under the principles of net neutrality, without discriminating against any content.
So far, Wheeler has said that he doesn’t want to jump directly to Title II reclassification, which is likely just a polite way of saying that he’d prefer to help out his cohorts at the major service providers. We’ll find out on May 15, when the FCC will vote on whether to start formally considering Wheeler’s proposal.
Following the meeting, there will be a “public comment” period of about 30 to 45 days during which anyone can tell both President Obama and Chairman Wheeler how they feel about the proposal.
Let’s not allow a corporate shill to destroy the internet as we know it.
In Pursuit of the Truth,