News Column

FCC Puts Brakes on Some Net Neutrality 'Fast Lanes'

May 13, 2014

By Roger Yu, USA TODAY

Responding to waves of criticism, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is revising his net neutrality rule proposals to include a ban on certain types of "fast lanes" for content companies that are willing to pay Internet service providers for the upgrade.

The revision, which seeks comments from the agency's other commissioners, was circulated Monday as they get ready to vote Thursday on the proposals.

Wheeler's latest revision doesn't entirely ban Internet fast lanes and will leave room for some deals, including public-interest cases.

But unlike his initial proposal last month, Wheeler is seeking to specifically ban certain types of fast lanes, including prioritization given by ISPs to their subsidiaries that make and stream content, according to an FCC official who wasn't authorized to talk about the revisions publicly before the vote. The FCC would retain powers to review any prioritization deals that may pose public harm.

Wheeler is also open to applying some "common carrier" rules that regulate telephone companies, which would result in more stringent oversight of the ISPs in commercial transactions.

On Jan. 15, a federal appeals court threw out the FCC's net neutrality rules -- also called Open Internet -- removing any legal barriers that would stop ISPs from interfering with or discriminating against any data sent through their pipes.

Last month, Wheeler presented a draft of the revised rules. But they also included provisionsto allow fast lanes to consumers' homes that content providers can buy from ISPs as long as the same opportunities are available to others on "commercially reasonable" terms.

Net neutrality proponents pounced on Wheeler's proposals and argued that they harm smaller companies and entrepreneurs. That some content would be streamed on prioritized Internet pipes is discrimination and could result in slower lanes for others, they said.

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Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

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