FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler (AP/Susan Walsh)

FCC passes proposal to create rules on net neutrality, further threatening an open Internet

Today the Federal Communications Commission, in a 3-2 vote, advanced proposals that threaten an open Internet


Sarah Gray
May 15, 2014 7:45PM (UTC)

Today the Federal Communications Commission publicly released its proposed rules on net neutrality. The proposal passed with a 3-2 vote. The real fight for an open Internet has just begun.

The proposal focuses on two potential rules: Though they have not yet been implemented, they get closer to effacing net neutrality. The first is a watered-down version of an original proposal of "pay-for-preference" deals to be formed between broadband providers and Internet companies. These deals would come under strict scrutiny from the FCC. The second option would make broadband a public utility, making it possible for more strict regulation -- including a ban on broadband companies charging for preferential treatment.

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The FCC has come under close scrutiny, after it was reported that it would abandon tenets of a free and open Internet, and allow broadband carriers to charge companies to provide their content faster. The fear is that the rules proposed would create an Internet fast lane and slow lane -- at the discretion of broadband companies.

All commissioners, including chairman Tom Wheeler, have stated their support for an open Internet. They have, however, differed on how and when these rules should be discussed.

Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai worried that the FCC was moving too fast on these rules, and stressed the importance of getting future net neutrality right. "The future of the Internet is the future of everything," Rosenworcel began.

"It is our modern town square, it is our printing press, it is our shared platform for everything," she said.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn, who was the first commissioner to speak, framed her speech around questions from her mother. "When my mother calls with public-policy concerns I know that there is a problem,” she said.

She also brought up that currently there are no rules governing broadband companies, regulating how they provide Internet service. Clyburn said that this vote would not put rules into place, but merely propose the future of the Internet.

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During the hearing a protester was escorted out after giving her own unprompted speech, and shouts and chants could be heard from the area outside the hearing. Here is a photo of protests outside the FCC:

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Regardless of speeches declaring their understanding of the importance of net neutrality, the FCC Commission voted to advance new rules. This vote begins a months-long decision process, and is open for public comment. The hearing can be watched (and rewatched) at C-SPAN.


Sarah Gray

Sarah Gray is an assistant editor at Salon, focusing on innovation. Follow @sarahhhgray or email sgray@salon.com.

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