"Most Internet providers have treated Internet traffic equally. That's a principle known as "net neutrality" — and it says that an entrepreneur's fledgling company should have the same chance to succeed as established corporations, and that access to a high school student's blog shouldn't be unfairly slowed down to make way for advertisers with more money."
In his statement, the President explained:
"Net neutrality has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas. That is why today, I am asking the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to answer the call of almost 4 million public comments, and implement the strongest possible rules to protect net neutrality."
The rules the President asked the FCC to adopt:
"No blocking. If a consumer requests access to a website or service, and the content is legal, your ISP should not be permitted to block it. That way, every player — not just those commercially affiliated with an ISP — gets a fair shot at your business.
No throttling. Nor should ISPs be able to intentionally slow down some content or speed up others — through a process often called “throttling” — based on the type of service or your ISP’s preferences.
Increased transparency. The connection between consumers and ISPs — the so-called “last mile” — is not the only place some sites might get special treatment. So, I am also asking the FCC to make full use of the transparency authorities the court recently upheld, and if necessary to apply net neutrality rules to points of interconnection between the ISP and the rest of the Internet.
No paid prioritization. Simply put: No service should be stuck in a “slow lane” because it does not pay a fee. That kind of gatekeeping would undermine the level playing field essential to the Internet’s growth. So, as I have before, I am asking for an explicit ban on paid prioritization and any other restriction that has a similar effect."
These rules are a good start. The "no throttling" rule is important as cases have already documented throttling by some ISPs. The President also said in his statement:
"I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services. This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone — not just one or two companies."
Will the FCC Commissioners and FCC Chairman Wheeler listen to the President's proposed rules? Will Chairman Wheeler and the FCC listen to feedback from four million consumers, or to a few large ISPs? I hope the FCC listens to consumers, the people who pay for Internet services. It is useful to remember that Chairman Wheeler previously was a lobbyist for the telecommunications and ISP industry. A prior proposal by the FCC was fake net neutrality. Despite four million comments from citizens, FCC Chairman Wheeler already expressed interest in doing something different than the President's proposed rules.
As I see it, there are three chief benefits with the President's plan that Chairman Wheeler fails to address. First, lower Internet prices. Americans already pay the highest prices in the world for Internet access. The President's rules encourage more competition, which will lower the monthly Internet prices we all pay. Readers of this blog are aware of the limited competition in many cities, towns, and rural areas, including local laws in 20 states that prohibit citizens from forming municipal broadband Internet services. The major ISPs have done, and continue to do, everything possible to both restrict competition and to keep monthly Internet prices sky high. And, a few misguided politicians who know nothing about the Internet are happy to keep your monthly Internet prices high by serving the financial needs of their corporate donors.
Second, the President's rules mean J-O-B-S. How? Lower prices make it easier for small and medium businesses to start, grow, and hire. That means J-O-B-S. Do the large ISPs care about job-creation? I think not. By design and structure, the focus of any corporation is to increase its profits and meet the needs of its shareholders (e.g., maximize dividends); and not meet the needs of the broader community of Internet users.
Third, a healthy democracy needs access to information by citizens. Do you want the strongest democracy possible? I think you do. I do. Lower prices make it easier for more citizens to have Internet access. Stop by any coffee or doughnut shop near where you live and notice the number of people using the free WiFi because they can't afford it at home. Lower prices help close the digital divide between the haves and the have-nots.
Read or listen to the President's plan to keep the Internet fair and equal. Do you want lower monthly Internet prices? I think that you do. I do. Without net neutrality, you will have less choice and say about where to surf on the Internet, and you'll probably pay a lot more.
To learn more about net neutrality, citizen feedback to the FCC, and prior abuses by ISPs, read the Internet Access section of this blog. What the FCC finally decides will affect us all for decades. What are your opinions of the President's rules? Of the FCC?