FCC Will Soon Propose New Net Neutrality Rules

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Apr 24, 2014 - TIME Magazine and other media outlets are reporting that the FCC will soon propose new rules regarding net neutrality and that the proposed rules will not assuage the concerns of net neutrality advocates. According to TIME, the Commission's plan is to allow ISPs such as Comcast and AT&T to strike deals with Internet content providers (such as Netflix) facilitating more effective connections (i.e., faster) over the "last mile" specifically for the paying content provider. At the same time, the large ISPs "would be required to offer a baseline level of service to their subscribers," according to an FCC spokesperson, and the ISPs would also be prohibited from blocking or discriminating against online content.

The new proposal would establish a "baseline" rule prohibiting ISPs from engaging in "commercially unreasonable" practices in sending Internet traffic to consumers. The proposal would also establish a process for resolving disputes between Internet service providers and content companies on a case-by-case basis.

"The FCC is inviting ISPs to pick winners and losers online," Michael Weinberg, vice president at Public Knowledge, a D.C.-based consumer advocacy group, said in a statement. “This is not net neutrality. This standard allows ISPs to impose a new price of entry for innovation on the Internet."

Net neutrality is simply the concept that all users have open and equal access to the Internet. For many years, the concept has been adhered to; and for this reason, many (if not most) consumers don't even realize that the potential loss of net neutrality is an issue. However, last February, the United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia ended the FCC's authority to enforce the anti-blocking and anti-discrimination rules that were in place, which was a defeat for President Obama, who campaigned as a strong supporter of net neutrality. In the wake of that defeat, many net neutrality advocates called for the FCC to reclassify broadband as a telecommunications service; instead, the FCC appears to have chosen the path of least resistance, based on the agency's "Section 706" authority - that will seek to address blocking and discrimination on a case-by-case basis.

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