Will the FCC Create an Internet for the 1%?April 29, 2014
This week, the Federal Communications Commission released information about new draft rules for an open internet. This followed the U.S. Court of Appeals decision which struck down the legal path used to implement the original Open Internet rules, but upheld the FCC’s authority to do so under section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, or via reclassification of broadband as a “Title II” service. Public Knowledge supports this last option – reclassifying broadband as a Title II service – and so should other public interest groups, and you.
The proposed rules reportedly would allow for broadband providers to make companies that provide services on the internet pay for fast lane service, as long as that payment is considered “commercially reasonable.”
But what happens when what one company considers “commercially reasonable” is not considered so by another? Will this guideline work favorably for some companies who can afford to negotiate and not others? What are the implications for startup communities? How can harm to companies and consumers be measured under these rules?
For consumers, artists, activists, and creators, creating a premium internet should raise serious concerns. The internet as it stands today is a space for people to access content, subscribe to services, and connect with others. It is where movements are made, social justice issues are supported, and effective campaigns are launched.
Now more than ever is the time to raise our collective voice in support of an open internet. Reclassifying broadband as a Title II service is the best way going forward for strong net neutrality. Policymakers need to hear from people who care about keeping an internet that is an equal playing field for all.
The digital divide in this country is real enough to too many people due to the lack of competition in the broadband market. We don’t need to widen that gap by creating fast and slow lanes between those companies who can afford to negotiate and those who cannot. There are enough barriers for people who cannot afford reliable access to broadband, adding another toll for companies creates another.
As income inequality rises in the United States, we are quickly approaching a future that resembles an airport, with expensive internet connections, lack of free public Wi-Fi, high cost services, and expensive and prioritized access for those who can afford it, that caters to an elite business class.
What is more appealing to you? An internet that resembles a high cost, exclusive service, or a platform accessible to all comers? I vote for the latter. Our phone system helped set the standard in the world for what a communications system could be because we prioritized the importance of serving all people equally, regardless of race, income, gender, location, or age. Our internet service can work the same way. We have an opportunity to repair some of the recent harms to our communications social safety net, and it starts with real net neutrality rules from the FCC.