In a move that has consumer advocates fuming, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler intends to propose new net neutrality regulations that will allow Internet service providers to charge Web companies extra for fast-lane treatment.
While Wheeler's proposed rules would prohibit broadband providers from outright censoring sites, the regulations also would allow ISPs to give some companies -- like Netflix -- preferential treatment, according to reports in The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. That marks a dramatic departure from the 2010 neutrality rules, which prohibited all broadband providers from blocking or degrading content, and prohibited wireline -- but not wireless -- providers from engaging in unreasonable discrimination. An appellate court struck down those rules earlier this year on the ground that they treated broadband providers as if they were common carriers.
Broadband advocates quickly panned news of the proposed rules. Free Press calls the proposal “a disaster for startups, nonprofits and everyday Internet users who cannot afford these unnecessary tolls.”
The group goes on to accuse the FCC of “aiding and abetting the largest ISPs in their efforts to destroy the open Internet.”
Free Press adds: “This proposal is short-sighted and should be strenuously opposed by the broader Internet community... The only parties cheering this idea on will be the largest ISPs who stand to profit from discrimination.”
Public Knowledge also criticized news of the proposal, saying that the FCC “is inviting ISPs to pick winners and losers online.”
Wheeler is expected to propose the rules tomorrow, and the FCC is expected to vote in mid-May on whether to move forward by seeking public comment.