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Free Internet Setback? Net Neutrality Defenders Plan Pushback

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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

NEW YORK – 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, including ESPN and 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 also means net discrimination.

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.

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

Andrew Rasiej, chairman of New York Tech Meetup, says he and his members are evaluating the threat level of the FCC move.

"One thing is for sure: the open Internet as a platform for innovation is slowly being whittled away by moneyed interests and incumbent market forces who have deep pockets," 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 stresses. “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."

Rasiej says the daylong shutdown of the Internet two years ago in protest of proposed copyright legislation may or may not have to be repeated.

"The attack on the Internet back in 2012 was a stranglehold around the throat,” he says. “The Internet is not going to die from a stranglehold. It’s going to die from a thousand little cuts – the open Internet, that is – and this is a pretty deep gash."


Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY