If you love an open Internet, tell the FCC now

May 21, 2014 

South Sound users of the Internet have 17 weeks to persuade the Federal Communications Commission not to kill the concept of “net neutrality” – equitable treatment for everyone delivering or consuming online content.

The FCC voted last week to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking that would create fast lanes for Internet service providers who would pay a premium to deliver their favored apps and services, pushing everyone else into the slow lanes.

Think about any highway where transportation officials take away an existing general-purpose lane and designate it for HOV use only. Vehicles in the new HOV lane will move faster, but everyone else on the road will be squeezed into fewer lanes and will move slower.

Advocates of net neutrality believe the FCC’s proposed new rule gives the biggest Internet service providers — such as Comcast, Time Warner, Verizon and AT&T — too much latitude to charge higher rates and show preferential treatment to their favored content companies, like Google or Netflix.

The loss of net neutrality could spell disaster for small startup companies and independent content providers who can’t afford to pay higher tolls. It would be a shame to lose the 21st Century’s greatest entrepreneurial driver.

Many of today’s successful Internet companies started in someone’s garage because they had the ability to compete through open access, delivering their service or app to millions of homes around the world at the same speed as everyone else.

In many respects, the Internet has become a vital and global public utility, like phone or cable service. The FCC should exercise its option to regulate the Internet as a common carrier under Title II of the federal Telecommunications Act.

It appears the FCC and its chairman, Tom Wheeler, are overreacting to a court ruling in January that threw out the commission’s existing open access rules. But other recent legal challenges have clearly informed the FCC that it can reclassify Internet service providers as telecom carriers, thus allowing users to send and receive information without meddling by ISPs.

Attempting to reclassify the Internet as a common carrier would almost guarantee a fierce political battle in Congress. The big telecommunication conglomerates already have considerable clout and would undoubtedly divert some of the billions they’ve spent on recent acquisitions to lobbying for more.

But it would be the right thing to do.

Over the next four months, the FCC will solicit public opinion on whether it should ban fast lanes on the Internet, as the European Union has recently done. It is also asking if people think the FCC should classify the Internet as a common carrier.

We urge you to comment, and answer “yes” to both questions.

To comment on the FCC’s Proceeding 14-28, go to the FCC.gov home page or email them directly at openinternet@fcc.gov.

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