New FCC Rules Could Affect Broadband Speed for Millions

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has proposed some new, free Internet policies that will permit content providers to pay for quicker streaming over the final stretch of the connection to consumers’ homes. The new rules allow for greater scrutiny of such arrangements so they shouldn’t hurt competition or infringe on the First Amendment.

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Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC, has been discussing the proposed regulations with his colleagues on the commission. Net neutrality regulations have been hotly debated in recent years: People fear that without them, customers’ freedom of access to specific types of information could be limited by large companies for business, political, or other reasons.

The new regulations are intended to replace the FCC’s open Internet policy of 2010 which was vetoed in federal courts in January. The U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington, D.C., ruled that the FCC had the power to make open-access policies, yet found it had neglected to confirm that its 2010 regulations do not overstep the commission’s authority.

White House insists consumers have open Internet standards

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says individual Americans should have an absolute right to Internet access. He has criticized tyrannical governments that place limitations on web access and online networking.

Speaking from Washington to an online opportunity discussion in Estonia, Kerry said this month that open and unlimited correspondence helps to keep governments responsible. He said dictatorial rulers tend to view a free, open, and comprehensive Internet as a danger to their authority.

Confinements forced by tyrant leaders permit them to fracture their countries and obfuscate the truth, Kerry added. Thus, the secretary continued, the U.S. and other free nations must keep pushing for Internet neutrality to give individuals a voice.

Kerry also focused on the strength of Internet security and mentioned recent revisions to U.S. data-gathering policies.

Academic backlash to FCC ruling will likely drive opposition

People in the academic community, including influential private institutions and independent researchers, say they will fight proposed legislation from the FCC that would supposedly permit ISPs to charge more for selectively speedier Internet service.

The regulations, announced at the FCC’s May 15 assembly, have been portrayed as a fatal blow to net neutrality: the impartial treatment of all streams of data on the Internet.

According to the new rules:

  • The FCC will be the ultimate arbiter of what is a healthy level of competition.
  • The current pathways of traffic shouldn’t be affected.
  • Preferential treatment of companies such as Netflix won’t alter the experience of the average Internet user.
  • ISPs will no longer be allowed to block content from certain providers.

The FCC’s proposal to permit broadband providers such as Verizon and Comcast to charge different rates for different content providers was initially reported in The Wall Street Journal. Speaking on the FCC’s website, director Wheeler characterized the public representation of the new rules as “misinformation,” but he didn’t entirely deny the possibility that the FCC might permit tiered broadband rates.

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