FCC Deluged by Net Neutrality Comments Against Web-Killing “Fast Lane” Proposal

17/07/2014 23:52

Source: Yves Smith, Naked Capitalism

 

Numerous media outlets reported today that the FCC was inundated by last-minute comments on proposed net neutrality rules, and was forced by its server crashing as a result of the volume to extend its deadline to Friday. The agency has received 780,000 comments so far, more than it has ever received on a rule-making, and activists contend the real figure is higher.

In case you managed to miss it, the source of ire is a proposal by Chairman Tom Wheeler to allow local broadband companies to charge extra for a fast lane. Users and enterprenuers are concerned that this would allow the pipeline owners to increasingly discriminate as to what content gets access to the fast lane, which would entrench large and powerful content providers. As the New York Times summarized the state of play:

The agency is fine-tuning its rules to secure an open Internet, after a federal-court decision in January said it had to rethink its approach.

After the court ruling, Tom Wheeler, chairman of the F.C.C., proposed a path in step with the court ruling that would explicitly allow “commercially reasonable” deals. Such deals are typically for faster streaming of Internet content between broadband operators — phone and cable companies like Verizon, AT&T and Comcast — and online media distributors like Netflix and Google’s YouTube.

Mr. Wheeler’s plan, according to its many critics, would open the door to a two-tier Internet of fast and slow lanes, with affluent companies and households enjoying premium service and everyone else fighting traffic: a death knell for the open Internet and its democratic ethos of “net neutrality.”

A key development is that the agency is under increasing pressure to designate the Internet as a utility, which would give it the authority to impose rules. Wheeler, a former telecom and cable lobbyist, has, not surprisingly, been loath to take this step.

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