FCC's net neutrality compromise benefits industry at expense of small business, tech innovators and minorities

Reclaim the Media:

Public interest advocates continue pushing for a level playing field online

Today, the Federal Communications Commission held a key vote affecting rules of the road for the Internet. Unfortunately, the rules approved today fall short of Chairman Julius Genachowski's rhetoric concerning Internet openness, and stand to benefit large providers like AT&T and Comcast at the expense of end users, small businesses, and technology innovators.

By treating wireless web access differently from wired broadband, the FCC's net neutrality order paves the way for a two-tiered Internet experience, with wireless users faced with predatory pricing tiers and discriminatory filtering. Latinos, rural Americans, blacks and low-income Internet users disproportionately favor wireless connections, and will be disproportionately impacted by the new rules.

Additionally, while the order provides many consumers with a new level of protection from net neutrality abuses by service providers, it lacks a clear, enforceable ban on paid prioritization--a practice which would allow Internet providers to impose discriminatory speed limits on some websites unwilling or unable to pay for special access.

The FCC's decision ignores overwhelming public support for stronger, enforceable net neutrality protections, and commonsense requests for a single set of rules recognizing that there is a single set of rules recognizing that there is one Internet, not two.

"Expanding access to a truly open Internet is certainly the most important communications issue of our time," said Jonathan Lawson of Reclaim the Media. "We're dismayed that the FCC has taken such a significant misstep towards that goal. Today's decision will mean that for millions of users, the World Wide Web won't be so wide anymore."

Grassroots public interest advocates in Washington State continue to press federal lawmakers to express support for a more authentically pro-consumer vision for equality of access for all Internet users.

In the week leading up to today's FCC vote, members of Reclaim the Media, Whatcom Community Television and Communication, and the Northwest Media Action Network (NW MAG-Net) met with the office of Rep. Rick Larsen (WA-2), requesting that he support a single set of rules covering wireless and wireline broadband, as well as a ban on paid prioritization.

Members of the delegation highlighted the need for broadband equity among rural and tribal Internet users, and links between Internet openness and technology innovation.

Earlier this year, Larsen signed an industry-drafted Congressional letter opposing net neutrality. A spokesman said that Larsen's signature on that letter had more to do with his support for rural broadband deployment than the net neutrality issue. Larsen's office declined to state a current position on the open Internet issues of paid prioritization and parity for wireless Internet, as did spokespeople for Reps. Norm Dicks and Adam Smith, in separate conversations.

Congressional support for open Internet policies has been strong in Washington State, with civil rights groups, educators, small and large businesses, and web information providers all speaking out in favor of net neutrality at public hearings earlier this year. Senator Maria Cantwell and Rep. Hay Inslee have been among the country's most outspoken leaders favoring an open Internet, recently cosigning a letter to Genachowski favoring a ban on paid prioritization. Senator Patty Murray and Representative Jim McDermott are also confirmed net neutrality supporters.

article originally published at Reclaim the Media.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey