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FCC Approves Initial Net Neutrality Rule

15 May, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

May 15 vote begins four-month comment period from business and public before final ruling

The Federal Communications Commission May 15, in a 3-2 vote, approved chairman Tom Wheeler’s controversial net neutrality proposal, which includes allowing ISP to charge fees for faster streaming speeds.

Net neutrality is the concept of treating the Internet as an open platform in which all traffic is treated equally.

The new plan, which includes appointing an ombudsman to oversee the rights of Internet users and holding ISPs to select standards, was approved along partisan lines with Republican commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Reilly voting against it after characterizing net neutrality as burdensome regulation.

“There is one Internet. Not a fast Internet. Not a slow Internet,” Wheeler told the packed hearing in a statement before the vote, which included numerous protesters. “Today this agency moves to surmount that opposition and stand up for consumers and an open Internet. This notice of proposed rulemaking starts an important process. Where it ends, we’ll learn during the process.”

Wheeler said his proposal reflects recent legal challenges to net neutrality, which included a federal court striking down components of the 2010 provision earlier this year.

Subsequently, major ISPs such as Comcast and Verizon struck interconnection deals with Netflix to ensure faster streaming speeds for SVOD pioneer’s members. Netflix, which has characterized the fees as an unnecessary tax, is calling for tougher net neutrality guidelines.

Leading up to the vote, Wheeler had indicated a willingness to examine peering arrangements, which he said must be commercially reasonable. FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said she voted in favor of the proposal after Wheeler made “significant adjustments,” according to Politico.com.

Meanwhile, O’Reilly contends there is no need for net neutrality at all.

“The premise for imposing net neutrality rules is fundamentally flawed and rests on a faulty foundation of make-believe statutory authority,” O’Reilly said. “I have serious concerns that this ill-advised item will create damaging uncertainty and head the Commission down a slippery slope of regulation.”

Regardless, political action group MoveOn.org slammed the vote, calling the FCC’s advance of a two-tiered Internet the exact opposite of what net neutrality should stand for.

"An open Internet levels the playing field in our democracy and that's why it's so alarming that the FCC is moving forward chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed rules that would break President Obama's promise to uphold net neutrality — rules that could destroy the Internet as we know it,” Victoria Kaplan, lead campaign director for MoveOn.org, said in a statement.

MoveOn earlier in the week ran a TV ad in the District of Columbia urging the FCC to keep Obama’s promise to uphold net neutrality.

Separately, advocacy group Presente.org called the FCC decision bad for Latino communities, racial justice and working people.

“The Internet has become a public space essential to our democracy and equality. A pay-to-play Internet will disintegrate the value of that public space and drown out the voices of everyday Americans in favor of corporate barons. This is a shameful day for the FCC and for regulation of the Internet,” executive director Arturo Carmona said in a statement.


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