It appears that Net Neutrality advocates are about to score a huge win in late February 2015, given the FCC Chairman’s 322-page proposal and the FCC commissioners’ anticipated approval by a vote of 3-2.
I’ll briefly recap the pro vs anti Net Neutrality battle. “Net Neutrality” is the concept that the government and all internet service providers should treat all data and all users equally on the internet. Pro-Net Neutrality advocates want the internet’s continued openness mandated by law to counteract providers’ abilities to control, block, censor and charge higher prices for a restrained internet, claiming that without protective laws, the internet will go the way of Cable TV, controlled by a few huge corporations governing access, content, distribution and cost. Meanwhile, Anti-Net Neutrality forces tend to include “heavyweight” providers of telecommunications such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, claim that “net neutrality” is an empty slogan inhibiting innovation by providing no incentive for big investments in further broadband developments and that they have no plans to block content or diminish network performance (though examples of exactly those blocking/diminishing behaviors have already occurred).
In early February 2015, Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler released his 322-page proposal to protect Net Neutrality through “the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC.” According to the proposal, the FCC will use its authority granted by Title II of the Communications Act to keep the internet open. Noting that “Broadband network operators have an understandable motivation to manage their network to maximize their business interests… But their actions may not always be optimal for network users,” Wheeler’s proposal brought support from the President, financial analysts and ISPs, such as Sprint.
The proposal is set for a vote by the 5 FCC commissioners in late February 2015 and is expected to pass by a 3-2 bipartisan vote.
The proposal is a huge blow to Anti-Net Neutrality forces, who characterized the proposal as an “unjustified, overblown response to what has in actuality been a by-and-large hypothetical concern.” Accordingly, the 2 FCC commissioners expected to vote against Net Neutrality in a losing battle have requested that the vote be delayed and the 322-page report be released to the public for scrutiny before the commissioners’ vote (though the FCC does not traditionally release its proposals to the public).
Viewing the requested delay as an Anti-Net Neutrality tactic, FCC Chairman Wheeler tweeted that the FCC held a period to review public comment last summer, received more than 4 million public comments that helped shape his proposal, and that it is time to act.”
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