Advocates argue over future of net neutrality

Advocates argue over future of net neutrality

Arguments from both sides grow as more people take an interest in the future of Internet freedom.

The Federal Communications Commission’s controversial net neutrality proposal continues to draw fire as advocates for both sides bring their influence to bear. The committee’s hearing shows that neutrality has become an increasingly political issue. Many of those urging net neutrality are pushing for the FCC to use part of its charter, Title II of the Communications Act, to reclassify broadband as a public utility. This would prevent companies from becoming gatekeepers to the Internet by allowing some companies to pay for high speed information “fast lanes.”

Net neutrality opponents state that fast lanes for web services, especially those that depend on reliable Internet speed and quality, would ultimately benefit consumers. Strict net neutrality rules would prevent experimentation with different kinds of services and slow innovation, they say. Fast lanes would allow companies like Google, Netflix and Skype to pay extra for a faster pipe that would ensure speedy streaming of their content.

Meanwhile, Internet service providers have submitted arguments to the FCC that reclassifying the Internet would “mire the industry in years of uncertainty and litigation,” However, advocates for Title II state that regulations would continue to give everyone a voice regardless of ethnicity or socioeconomic standing. “[P]eople realize this issue is about who will control the future of communication,” said Tim Karr, of Free Press.

For months, net neutrality opponents said Congress would bring the FCC to a standstill if it tried to use an Internet-as-utility approach. But as public comments grew into the millions, they flooded the commission. Calls from net neutrality supporters overwhelmed congressional offices, and many started publicly backing reclassification. Democrats joined the Title II movement amid social media campaigns warning that otherwise, “the Internet will be sold to the highest bidder.”

“Let me assure you that I will lead the fight to protect any Open Internet rules promulgated by the FCC against the inevitable Republican attack against such rules,” Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., wrote in a letter to technology advocates in July.

“The Internet is the greatest deregulatory success story of all time,” former FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell said in his testimony. “Nothing is broken that needs fixing.”

While pressure from all sides is likely to keep mounting, current FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said he hopes to put new rules in place by the end of the year.

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