According to various news reports today, the Federal Communication Commission voted to advance a proposal that would allow Internet service providers to create an Internet “fast lane.” A direct blow to supporters of net neutrality, Reuters says that FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler voted in favor of the proposal alongside the two other Democrats on the Commission board. The two Republicans voted against the measure.
The vote of 3-2 does not immediately change the landscape of the Internet, but it does give some traction to the subversion of net neutrality. The proposed rules would “allow some ‘commercially reasonable’ deals in which content companies could pay broadband providers to prioritize traffic on their networks,” Reuters states. Opponents fear that a “fast lane” will quickly develop and companies that can pay for prioritized service will do so while those who cannnot afford that luxury will be left behind.
Industry Buzz authors have discussed the concept of net neutrality at length. One article explains that a net neutral Internet can help innovative ideas grow into that which becomes world changing. Without a fair system that treats all content equally, big business could use capital to their advantage and squash the little guy.
Furthermore, Industry Buzz has noted that it is not just the little guys who favor net neutral policies. A number of corporate giants fought back last week by writing a letter to the FCC explaining that the proposed rule changes represent “a grave threat to the Internet.” The article also noted the opinion of MIT Technology Review which reported that venture capitalists may shy away from supporting multimedia companies because fast lanes will require greater monetary investments in their respective futures.
Ars Technica says that the FCC will now begin taking official public comments and will continue to receive them until June 15. They will reportedly respond to comments — those received during that month-long period — through September. Later this year, the Commission will vote again to decide whether or not ISPs will be granted the power to create fast lanes, net neutrality advocates will have their way and the Internet will remain unchanged, or both side will have to settle for a compromise that lies between the two extremes.
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