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"Marginal Voices" To Speak Loudly at FCC Today

GRAPHIC: A poster calls for opponents of the FCC's proposed rule change on net neutrality to rally at the agency today. Credit: Free Press.
GRAPHIC: A poster calls for opponents of the FCC's proposed rule change on net neutrality to rally at the agency today. Credit: Free Press.
May 15, 2014

CHARLESTON, W.Va. – Internet freedom advocates are calling for a day of action today at the Federal Communications Commission.

Internet fast lanes are at the heart of the matter.

The FCC is proposing that Comcast, Verizon and other service providers be allowed to charge more for outfits such as Netflix or Hulu to use higher download speeds while others are stuck in slower lanes.

Critics say this would violate the principle of net neutrality.

Sarah Arnold, activism campaign manager for the The Nation, says media outlets such as her publication would face discrimination.

"Alternative media outlets, which couldn't pay for the faster service, their content would download slower so readers could get frustrated, could give up on accessing the content,” she points out. “So we would have less access to hearing from marginal voices."

A rally is set for this morning outside the FCC headquarters in Washington, and events have been organized at 20 of the 24 FCC field offices around the country.

Some organizations and companies in rural areas depend on the Internet to put them on an even playing field with big players in urban areas.

And Mimi Pickering, director of the Appalachian media cooperative Appalshop’s Community Media Initiative, says that works for the culture and economies of rural areas as well.

She says dividing the Internet into fast and slow lanes could put that at risk.

"Our work is about this rural place that we're at,” she explains. “One of the great things about the Internet has been the way what we produce here in Whitesburg, Kentucky, can be shared all over the world. "

The big cable and phone companies in the Internet business want to be able to use their dominant online position to act with little government oversight.

But Arnold says big media will win if the FCC can't be dissuaded.

"So corporate media outlets like CNN, Fox News, they could pay for faster service while smaller alternative media, startups, grassroots organizations – they'd be relegated to a slower lane," she explains.




Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV