FCC to Vote on Net Neutrality

Thursday, 15 May 2014 06:40 AM

By Elliot Jager

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The Federal Communications Commission is scheduled to vote Thursday on a proposal that would allow broadband providers to strike deals with content companies for preferential Internet treatment, according to U.S. News & World Report.

In January, a U.S. appeals court rejected FCC rules obliging broadband providers to treat all Internet traffic equally, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Republicans, Democrats, Internet service providers, liberals such as Minnesota Sen. Al Franken, and companies such as Facebook Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. all oppose shifting away from "Internet neutrality." They are in accord that ISPs shouldn't be empowered to favor one content company over another.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has drafted rules he hopes would meet the court's objections.

If the FCC votes to regulate Internet service providers as it does phone companies under Title II, it would be able to authorize them to prioritize traffic in return for compensation.

Wheeler indicated he would prefer to regulate any arrangements for faster access to consumers on a case-by-case basis, the Journal reported.

Republicans have shifted on net neutrality which some initially opposed because they worried it would suppress the free market.

House GOP leaders wrote Wheeler to say that regulation of the Internet would be counterproductive. "Imposing expansive network neutrality regulations would only serve to deter investment and stifle one of the brightest spots in our economy."

Franken also opposes Wheeler's proposal. "There aren't many places left where every American can participate on an equal footing with deep-pocketed corporate interests," he wrote on his Huffington Post blog.

He argued that YouTube might never have gone from unknown start-up to overtaking Google Videos if not for net neutrality which allowed its videos to reach consumers at the same speed as Google's. "Google wasn't able to pay for a fast lane or any other unfair advantage," he wrote. Google later acquired YouTube.

Both Democratic Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel and Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai want to postpone the net neutrality vote by a month.

Generally, FCC commissioners are unanimous on proposals that reach this stage but the commission will probably be split on Thursday if a vote is held.

The FCC would need to hold a follow-up vote in 120 days after receiving further public comment.

The meeting will be at 10 a.m., eastern time, according to U.S. News.

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