Amid protests, the FCC proposes new ‘net neutrality’ rules

Netneutrality_modern_template_pure_svg.svgNet neutrality (also network neutrality or Internet neutrality) is the principle that Internet service providers and governments should treat all data on the Internet equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment, and modes of communication. The term was coined by Columbia media law professor Tim Wu in 2003 as an extension of the longstanding concept of a common carrier. Proponents often see net neutrality as an important component of an open internet, where policies such as equal treatment of data and open web standards allow those on the internet to easily communicate and conduct business without interference from a third party. A “closed internet” refers to the opposite situation, in which established corporations or governments favor certain uses. A closed internet may have restricted access to necessary web standards, artificially degrade some services, or explicitly filter out content.

When we log onto the Internet, we take lots of things for granted. We assume that we’ll be able to access whatever Web site we want, whenever we want to go there. We assume that we can use any feature we like — watching online video, listening to podcasts, searching, e-mailing and instant messaging — anytime we choose. We assume that we can attach devices like wireless routers, game controllers or extra hard drives to make our online experience better.

The free-flowing information super highway that we have grown to know as the Internet could very well become history.

What does that mean? It means we could be headed toward a pay-per-view Internet where Web sites have fees. It means we may have to pay a network tax to run voice-over-the-Internet phones, use an advanced search engine, or chat via Instant Messenger. The next generation of inventions will be shut out of the top-tier service level. Meanwhile, the network owners will rake in even greater profits.

U.S. regulators on Thursday advanced a “net neutrality” proposal that would ban Internet providers from blocking or slowing down access to websites but may let them charge content companies for faster and more reliable delivery of their traffic to users.

For four months now, the public has been able to weigh in on the rules proposed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in what promises to be an intense tug-of-war between some tech companies and consumer advocates on one side and Republicans and broadband providers on the other, over the extent to which the agency can regulate Internet traffic.

Dozens protested the vote at the FCC on Thursday as many consumer advocates have rejected FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal that may allow some “commercially reasonable” deals in which content companies could pay broadband providers to prioritize traffic on their networks.

The public will have until July 15 to submit initial comments on the proposal to the commission, and until Sept. 10 to file comments replying to the initial discussions.

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