Tuesday, December 21, 2010

FCC Rules Against Net Neutrality

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- In a devastating ruling to proponents of “net neutrality,” the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the “Open Internet” order today, spearheaded by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski. According to supporters of the measure, which include fellow Democrats Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn, the rules strive to balance the interests of Internet service providers (ISPs), content companies and consumers. Unfortunately, allowing the Internet to flourish without regulation does not necessarily translate to equal access for end users and content producers, despite the order’s deceptively worded title.

Net neutrality is a principle that advocates no restrictions by Internet service providers and governments on content, sites, platforms, types of integrated equipment, and the modes of communication utilized by Internet users. In a net neutral model, all users with access to the Web essentially determine for themselves which content they can view or filter out. As it currently stands, the Internet operating model is mostly neutral. However, with today’s ruling, any regulations ensuring equal access to all users and creators effectively ends.

High-speed broadband providers like Comcast and Verizon may now “reasonably” manage their networks without interference, which opponents to the ruling say will result in ISPs charging consumers based on levels of Internet usage. Jason Rosenbaum of BoldProgressives told reporters, "[WARNING: Verizon Internet Services could not retrieve this content]

The impact could not only lead to increasingly expensive, tiered pricing structures for consumers, but could allow big players such as Google and Amazon priority access to delivering their Web sites to users instantly, while independent publishers of blogs, newspapers and small business sites could stagnate far behind. In many ways, critics say, this could prevent the rise of the next YouTube or Boing Boing by helping to create monopolies. But the rules stifle more than innovation. Supporters of a "public Internet" argue that corporations will have the power to censor content they disagree with, thereby ending free speech on the Web.

Timothy Karr of Fress Press' "Save the Internet" campaign made an interesting observation. He said, [WARNING: Verizon Internet Services could not retrieve this content]

The most disappointing aspect of the FCC’s ruling is that Chairman Genachowski, an Obama appointee, broke the President’s campaign pledge to uphold net neutrality.

“The most important thing we can probably do is to preserve the diversity that’s emerging through the Internet...something called net neutrality,” Obama declared in April 2008. “I will take a backseat to no one in my commitment to network neutrality.” And while Obama hasn’t directly taken a backseat to corporate interests, he has certainly allowed himself to be stuffed into their back pockets.

Experts anticipate legal challenges to the < >

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