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Will It Still Be a Free Internet?

IMAGE: The Federal Communications Commission is expected to rule today on a proposal that would allow some Internet users, mainly huge corporations, faster online speeds than other users. (Image: UW Extension)
IMAGE: The Federal Communications Commission is expected to rule today on a proposal that would allow some Internet users, mainly huge corporations, faster online speeds than other users. (Image: UW Extension)
May 15, 2014

MADISON, Wis. - A ruling is expected today from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regarding "net neutrality," the concept that the free flow of information on the Internet occurs because all sites have the same access to all users. Advocates of net neutrality are urging the Commission to reject a proposed change in rules that would let some providers offer more bandwidth - in other words, higher speed - to huge companies with deep pockets.

University of Wisconsin telecommunications expert Barry Orton uses an analogy Wisconsin motorists are familiar with to describe the proposal the FCC is expected to rule on.

"It's really as if you took the I-Pass system, and you made a whole different fast lane for the folks who are paying for the I-Pass, and then you split everybody else - the poor schlubs who don't have the pass and aren't paying a premium amount - and they're going in a much more congested, slower lane."

The I-Pass system allows motorists who pay to use it access to high-speed toll lanes along tollways.

Tens of thousands of Internet users all across the nation have signed a petition calling on the FCC to preserve net neutrality and reject the proposed rules that would allow some users faster speeds than others.

In January, a federal judge struck down the FCC rules that enforced net neutrality, and supporters of a free Internet say the proposed new rules will allow deep-pocketed companies to pay broadband internet providers higher rates for faster speeds, which would not be available to smaller Internet users.

Orton says the big companies lobbying for this rule change have spent a lot of money lobbying the FCC to make the change.

"I think the voices against this are by no means as moneyed as the voices for it; they're not even in the same league," he says.

Supporters of a free Internet, with equal access available to every user, say net neutrality is far preferable to a set of rules that allows Internet providers to have the ability to favor some companies over others.



Tim Morrissey, Public News Service - WI