The FCC on Thursday voted in favor of new rules that could allow major U.S. Internet providers to provide high-throughput access to those who are willing to pay for it. The proposal is months away from being finalized, though it wasn’t turned down, which is worrisome for Internet users and industry watchers who have fought in favor of net neutrality and in keeping the Internet as a utility – one that doesn’t favor those who are capable of paying more.
FCC chairman Thomas Wheeler is disputing that the proposal still includes “fast lanes,” however. “Nothing in this proposal by the way authorizes paid prioritization, despite what has been incorrectly stated today,” Wheeler said. “Personally, I don’t like the idea that the Internet could be divided into haves and have-nots, and I will work to see that does not happen.” It doesn’t authorize it, but it also doesn’t seem to make those sorts of transactions illegal.
Also, the problem, of course, is that this sort of already exists, though it’s not as clear cut. Netflix, for example, pays Comcast to make sure its traffic gets through to customers at reasonable speeds. The worry is that firms who can’t pay that sort of cash won’t be able to innovate and create new services, that cable companies might block different services, or that the fees will ultimately trickle down to consumers. Here’s a great cartoon that explains it in better detail:
As DSLReports explains, the fear right now is that the FCC isn’t voting to put the right rules in place that could prevent major companies from taking advantage of “fast lanes.” If that were to happen in the future, for example, the FCC might have its hands tied and wouldn’t be able to intervene and make the action unlawful.
Now, we as users of the Internet, have until July 15 to make our voices heard.