If recent events are any indication, the idea of equal access to Internet services regardless of usage — aka “net neutrality” — may soon be but a memory. If this concept is killed, rest assured it won’t benefit you and me. Unlike now, service providers would get to charge more for select traffic.
On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission will consider the draft Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. People who aren’t huge corporations have plenty of reason to worry about this decision.
Appointed a year ago by President Obama, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler was confirmed by the Senate in November. His resume includes leading the National Cable & Telecommunications Association — the cable industry’s main trade organization. On March 20, Reed Hastings, Netflix founder — not without a dog in the fight — posted an impassioned defense of net neutrality to the company’s blog.
“Without strong net neutrality, big ISPs can demand potentially escalating fees for the interconnection required to deliver high quality service,” he wrote. (Hastings should know. Netflix struck special deals with Comcast — in February — and Verizon — in April — to give those company’s customers exclusively better quality.)
Thus far, 2014 hasn’t exactly been a banner year for the unrestricted flow of information. On Jan. 14, in the case of Verizon v. Federal Communications Commission, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled 2-1 against net neutrality and the 2010 Open Internet Order. After that, it was only a matter of time until the other shoe dropped.
“The principle that all Internet content should be treated equally as it flows through cables and pipes to consumers looks all but dead,” reported Edward Wyatt for The New York Times on April 23. “The [FCC said it] would propose new rules that allow companies like Disney, Google or Netflix to pay Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers.”