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Free Internet Setback? Net Neutrality Defenders Plan Pushback

PHOTO: FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, seen here (top left) at a meeting in January in Oakland, Calif., 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, Calif., 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 28, 2014

LANSING, Mich. - FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has signaled his intention to allow broadband Internet service providers such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable to charge content providers like ESPN or Netflix higher prices for faster download speeds. Internet freedom activists say creating the equivalent of "fast lanes" for some customers violates the principle of net neutrality, which opens the door for discrimination.

Josh Levy, Internet campaign director of the nonprofit 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," Levy declared.

Between now and May 15, when the Commission will formally act on the proposal, a raft of public interest groups is plotting pushback efforts that include petitions and public protests.

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

"This is all about pressure focused on the FCC," he said. "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."

Critics of the possible FCC changes argue that the end of net neutrality could have far-reaching effects on society by stifling innovation and the free flow of information, hindering start-ups from getting off the ground, and creating an online income-inequality gap.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - MI