Regulators have given the go ahead for new rules would let content firms charge more for faster delivery of traffic to their users, in move that critics say could end ‘net neutrality’.
For four months now, the public can weigh in on the rules proposed by the over the extent to which the Federal Communications Commission agency (FCC) can regulate Internet traffic.
Dozens protested the vote at the FCC on Thursday as many consumer advocates have rejected FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal that may allow some “commercially reasonable” deals in which content companies could pay broadband providers to prioritize traffic on their networks.
Wheeler’s proposal would prohibit broadband providers from selectively blocking traffic, but his proposal also would allow the controversial practice of allowing broadband providers to manage traffic in “commercially reasonable” ways, creating what opponents call a ‘fast lane’ for Internet traffic.
Critics worry the rules would create “fast lanes” for companies that pay up and mean slower traffic for others, though Wheeler pledged to use all of his powers to prevent “acts to divide the Internet between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots.’
“I will not allow the national asset of an open Internet to be compromised,” said Wheeler. “The prospect of a gatekeeper choosing winners and losers on the Internet is unacceptable.”
Tech giants oppose plans
Google, Facebook, Amazon and other online giants warn that the internet faces a ‘grave threat’ if service providers are able to prioritise or restrict usage based on negotiated payments.
In a joint letter on Wednesday, some 150 companies told the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) its proposed rules over net neutrality would permit phone and cable firms to discriminate ‘both technically and financially’ against companies providing online services.
‘Instead of permitting individualised bargaining and discrimination, the commission’s rules should protect users and internet companies … against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritisation,’ they said.
They said the regulations ‘should make the market for internet services more transparent’ and warned that fair rules ‘are essential for the future of the internet’.
Back in April 2014, the European Parliament adopted a “net neutrality” bill stopping internet service providers from giving preference to some kinds of traffic on their networks.
The bill also bans telecommunications companies from blocking or slowing apps such as Skype or WhatsApp to prevent them from competing with their own services.