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'Internet Freedom' Threat Taken Seriously

PHOTO: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, seen here (top left) at a meeting in January in Oakland, has signaled his support for rules that may threaten “net neutrality” by allowing broadband service to some companies at higher speed for higher prices. A pushback by opponents is forming quickly. Photo credit: Mark Scheerer.
PHOTO: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, seen here (top left) at a meeting in January in Oakland, has signaled his support for rules that may threaten “net neutrality” by allowing broadband service to some companies at higher speed for higher prices. A pushback by opponents is forming quickly. Photo credit: Mark Scheerer.
April 25, 2014

ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler has signaled his intention to allow broadband Internet service providers such as Comcast or Time Warner Cable to charge content providers higher prices for faster download speeds, which would mean higher prices for consumers.

Internet freedom watchdogs say that would create the equivalent of fast lanes for preferred customers, which violates the principle of net neutrality, and results in discrimination based on location and price.

Josh Levy, campaign director of the media advocacy group Free Press, calls it a huge threat to a free Internet.

"The only way to stop it is to organize and to channel everybody's anger and energy towards an effort to get the FCC to scrap those rules," he maintains.

Levy says initially, his group is urging people to sign petitions and call members of Congress.

"This is all about pressure focused on the FCC,” he explains. “Whether that pressure's coming directly from the public or from Congress, it needs to happen and they need to hear it, loud and clear."

Concerns about allowing this type of change center on giving online gatekeepers power to limit free speech, unfairly diminish competition or limit access geographically for political reasons.

The Commission is expected to formally act by May 15.

Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD