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"Marginal Voices" To Speak Loudly at FCC Today

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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

NEW YORK – 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.

This, critics say, 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 are planned at 20 of the 24 FCC field offices around the country.

A broader issue is whether the Internet is a public utility or a common carrier and should be regulated like phone service is, or whether it's an information service.

Arnold says The Nation has a position on that.

"Calling on the FCC to reclassify broadband as a public utility so they would be able to regulate it more strictly in the public interest and ensure real net neutrality," she explains.

The big cable and phone companies in the Internet business want the Internet to remain an information service, with minimal government oversight.

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 stresses.

A vote by the FCC would only be a first step. It could approve what's called a notice of proposed rulemaking and call for public review and comment on the draft proposal.

This story was made possible in part by a grant from The Media Consortium.

Mark Scheerer, Public News Service - NY