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Net Neutrality: Leahy And Matsui Reintroduce Legislation To Help Consumers. Netflix Explains The Problem

Last week, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Representative Doris Matsui (D-California) reintroduced the Online Competition and Consumer Choice Act of 2015 (Adobe PDF) to prevent the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) from developing Internet rules to allow Internet Service providers (ISPs) to charge companies with extra fees for faster content delivery, and prohibit ISPs from giving preferential treatment to their own content or content by affiliates.

Almost four million American wrote to the FCC last year to keep the Internet fair and open. Leahy and Matsui first introduced the bill in June, 2014. The bill faces opposition by House and Senate Republican members. Reportedly, the FCC commissioners will vote on net neutrality during their February 26, 2015 session.

Also last week, Netflix released a statement on its blog about net neutrality. Some consumers are confused about net neutrality. Netflix explained in its blog:

"First, what’s a fast lane on the Internet?  Simply put, a fast lane is where one person’s data traveling on an Internet Service Providers (ISPs) last-mile network gets priority delivery over another’s. A helpful way to think about fast lanes is by visualizing cars on a multi-lane highway where one of the lanes can only be used if you pay a toll. The toll lane only becomes attractive because the other lanes are too slow. Only the person controlling the network -- the ISP -- can slow down traffic to make someone else’s go faster."

Fast lanes create a couple problems:

"Allowing fast lanes gives ISPs a perverse incentive to boost revenues by allowing their networks to congest. It also gives them outsize power to pick winners and losers on the Internet. Those who can’t pay for fast lanes will suffer, entrenching incumbents while undermining the innovative power of the Internet... It is at these points -- where our traffic enters an ISPs network -- where Netflix and others have been forced to pay Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and Time Warner access fees to reach our mutual customers. Without those payments, ISPs allowed these connection points to congest, resulting in a poor video streaming experience for Netflix users on those networks. While Netflix was able to meet the demand for payments, we continue to believe this practice stands in contrast to an open Internet and all its promise."

So, when ISPs charge extra fees and pick what Internet sites consumers can visit, then consumers have lost big. Consumers lose the freedom to go where they choose on the Internet, and will likely pay more as content providers pass along those costs to their customers. The extra fees are great for ISPs' profitability; bad for consumers and everyone else. Netflix also explained:

"Right now, there are no paid fast lanes on the Internet. That’s a good thing. A large part of the debate about net neutrality is focused on ensuring it stays that way. If ISPs are allowed to sell fast lanes, competition for various Internet sites and services will become less about the value of what’s offered and more about who can pay the most to deliver it faster. It would be the very opposite environment than the one the Internet created."

In a free and open Internet, consumers have the freedom to decide where to surf on the Internet. Without a free and open Internet, ISPs decide and consumers likely pay more.


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