Net neutrality: What is it, and why i...

Net neutrality: What is it, and why is the U.S. about to lose it?

Posted in the Chicago Forum

Joshua Kopstein

Tampa, FL

#1 May 14, 2014
Net neutrality: What is it, and why is the U.S. about to lose it?

A new FCC proposal could give faster access to websites that pay a premium — and slower service to everyone else

May 13, 2014 5:00AM ET
by Joshua Kopstein

For decades, Americans have taken for granted that every website, service and app is treated equally by their Internet service providers. This principle, dubbed Net neutrality, is what allows startups and large corporations to compete on a level playing field, ensuring that Internet providers can’t pick winners and losers by blocking websites or having some load faster than others.

But Internet advocates warn that under a new set of rules scheduled to be introduced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on Thursday, this guarantee will be effectively gone, allowing Internet service providers to give prioritized access to websites that pay a premium — and slower service to everyone else.

The FCC proposal would be welcome news for broadband Internet providers like Verizon, Comcast and Time Warner Cable, some of which have already begun experimenting with charging online services for fast-lane access to their customers. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has tried to reassure critics that these arrangements would be strictly regulated on a case-by-case basis. But a growing coalition of Net neutrality advocates, tech companies, investors and members of Congress have slammed the anticipated proposal, calling it “a threat to the Internet” as a domain for free speech and commerce.

“It’s going to be ruinous for innovation online,” said April Glaser, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation.“It directs people away from newer, innovative services that might not be able to afford that price tier.”

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