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Next Threat to Internet: Fast Lanes for $ome?

GRAPHIC: A federal court this week heard arguments in a case that some say could lead to the end of "net neutrality," letting service providers offer higher speeds to wealthy content providers and potentially creating “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” on the Internet. Courtesy Free Press.
GRAPHIC: A federal court this week heard arguments in a case that some say could lead to the end of "net neutrality," letting service providers offer higher speeds to wealthy content providers and potentially creating “fast lanes” and “slow lanes” on the Internet. Courtesy Free Press.
September 20, 2013

LANSING, Mich. – A federal appeals court heard arguments this month from Verizon, a company that along with other Internet service providers could benefit by charging fees to content providers to use faster speeds to reach some customers.

An Internet fast lane would create an uneven playing field in the eyes of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which says well-funded companies like Facebook and Google would have an edge over small start-ups.

That could prevent the next Google or Facebook from succeeding.

Jen Yeh, policy counsel for the advocacy group Free Press, was in the courtroom and says the three-judge panel could do away with what's called the Open Internet Order.

"It prevents content providers from paying for priority access to get to users,” she explains. “It prevents a tiered system of superhighways for the rich and slow speedways for the poor.”

Most observers felt that by their questioning, two of the three judges were leaning toward freeing Verizon from some of the control of the FCC.

If this case results in the FCC losing some of its regulatory authority over the Internet, Amalia Deloney, policy director with the Center for Media Justice, says it could lead to voices of dissent and the disenfranchised being blocked from the Web.

"We need to be able to have groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War be able to express their anti-war views within the current debate between the president and Congress, and Syria," she says.

Jennifer Yeh says it isn't hard to imagine what would happen if Internet service providers were freed from the FCC's current oversight.

"There will be no government oversight of our communications network, and corporations will retain control over what content we see, how much we pay for that content,” she explains. “In other words, our Internet will start to look a lot more like our cable system."

Critics also predict added costs would be passed on to consumers. The case could be decided late this year or early in 2014.




Rob South, Public News Service - MI