The Federal Communications Commission is currently considering new net neutrality regulations with the inclusion of “fast lanes,” a significant change from the earlier version adopted by the agency.
In January the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals struck down net neutrality regulations promulgated by the FCC in 2010. Although the federal appellate panel found that the agency had not overstepped its jurisdictional bounds by issuing the rules, the antidiscrimination and antiblocking provisions exceeded the scope of its authority.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler promised the agency would begin work on new standards for an open Internet that would comply with the court’s opinion. The new proposal includes a controversial provision that would allow Internet service providers to afford certain companies “preferential treatment” by paying extra for faster service.
Under the proposal, the extra access would need to be “commercially reasonable” and the FCC would monitor such deals on a case-by-case basis. ISPs would not be permitted to discriminate against or shut out specific Web sites.
Consumer groups immediately voiced their displeasure, arguing that start-ups and smaller content companies will be stifled and unable to compete with larger, wealthier, and more established companies. As one advocate told The New York Times, “Americans were promised, and deserve, an Internet that is free of toll roads, fast lanes and censorship – corporate or governmental.”
Wheeler defended the new rules, which have been circulated to fellow commissioners and will be released for public comment on May 15. The proposal “does not change the underlying goals of transparency, no blocking of lawful content, and no unreasonable discrimination among users established by the 2010 Rule,” he wrote in a blog post. He added that the rules would “establish a high bar for what is ‘commercially reasonable,’” and requested comment, ideas, or other approaches to achieve an open Internet.
To read Chairman Wheeler’s blog post about the new rules, click here.
Why it matters: The net neutrality battle has already raged for more than a decade and with the FCC’s controversy surrounding the new proposal, looks to continue for the foreseeable future.