Will Proposed FCC Regulations Create a Two-Speed Internet?

The Federal Communications Commission has proposed to allow broadband providers to charge fees for high-speed Internet for faster delivery of video and other data, essentially allowing a premium Internet fast-lane for companies that can pay. Small content providers may not be able to compete because they do not have the resources to pay for high delivery speeds. The regulations would also prohibit broadband companies from blocking or slowing down individual websites.

The proposal, also known as the new Net Neutrality rules, could allow Internet giants such as Facebook, Netflix, or YouTube to continue their dominance because their payments to Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon would ensure the fast delivery of their video and music content. Consumers may have to pay higher prices for online content because large content providers will need to offset the costs of the fees.

The FCC claims that the proposal will still protect competition because each deal between a broadband company and content provider will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis to ensure the arrangements are “commercially reasonable,” reports The Wall Street Journal. Also, the new Net Neutrality rules would ban broadband providers from slowing down content in an anticompetitive manner and from blocking sites, especially services like Skype which compete with the broadband companies’ own products.

Consumer advocacy groups such as The American Civil Liberties Union and Public Knowledge spoke out against the reversal in the FCC’s position on Net Neutrality, arguing that the new proposals would squelch innovation and consumers will suffer. The FCC’s previous stance on the issue was to promote nondiscrimination and treat all Internet content providers equally.

If the measures are adopted, it would represent a big win for broadband companies looking for new sources of revenue. Broadband companies have “consistently argued that services like Google, which owns YouTube, that transmit a lot of data should pay fees for the use of broadband networks,” reports The New York Times.

If the proposal gets the majority vote from a five-member commission on May 15, the FCC will solicit public comments before finalizing the new rules by the end of the summer.

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