In the wake of a Federal Communication Commission decision to essentially reverse its previous stance on net neutrality and allow powerful telecommunications giants and content partners to create a so-called "fast lane" for the rich online, some FCC commissioners are calling on the agency to delay implementing the new plan. They say that overwhelming public outcry against the change needs to be addressed.
"I think we should delay our consideration of his rules by a least a month," FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel noted on Wednesday. "I believe that rushing headlong into a rulemaking next week fails to respect the public response to his proposal."
Internet companies such as Amazon, Facebook, Google, eBay, Microsoft, Netflix and over 100 others have sent a public letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who has backed a plan to let broadband providers charge content creators more for faster Internet access.
"Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission's rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent," the letter explains. "The rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low."
And it's not just Internet companies that oppose the FCC plan. Commissioner Mignon Clyburn says the agency has received over 100,000 phone calls, letters and petitions from individuals as well as companies and other entities, all of whom are critical of the new FCC initiative.
"Tens of thousands of consumers, companies, entrepreneurs, investors, schools, educators, healthcare providers and others have reached out to ask me to keep the Internet free and open," the Commissioner writes in a post to the official FCC blog. "There is no doubt that preserving and maintaining a free and open Internet is fundamental to the core values of our democratic society, and I have an unwavering commitment to its independence."
Additionally, protesters set up camp outside FCC headquarters in Washington D.C. on Wednesday and pledged to stick it out through the Commission's vote on the latest net neutrality proposal on May 15. And Reddit cofounder Alexis Ohanian is raising money to place a billboard near FCC headquarters denouncing its efforts.
The FCC reversal came after a January ruling by a federal appeals court, which stated that the FCC had no statuary authority to prevent telecommunications giants from entering into special deals with content providers. So the FCC reversed its earlier position and proposed net neutrality guidelines that would in effect allow—even prompt—these giants to charge content providers more for faster access to their services.
Net neutrality advocates argue, correctly, that such a regulation would create an Internet of haves and have-nots, where those who can afford it will receive clear, unspoiled access to content while those who cannot will have a frustrating or impossible content viewing experience. On the other side of the equation, it will also shut out that smaller, more innovative companies because they cannot afford to the pay the fees that bigger, richer, and established content providers can. The FCC's new proposal, in other words, is both anti-consumer and anti-competitive.