August 17, 2014
Net Neutrality Debate Heats Up As Senator Calls For Roundtables Outside Of Washington
John Hopton for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
Net neutrality laws and the protection of an open and equal Internet are subjects that arouse passions, and some heavyweights have entered the debate recently with President Obama and the New York Times joining large numbers of Internet users speaking out in support of equality on the Web.
The job of overseeing regulation falls to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), who Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy has called upon to hold roundtable discussions on the issue outside of Washington.
The primary concern is that regulation should prevent big companies from getting favorable treatment from ISPs in terms of how their traffic is managed. The possibility exists of them being able to pay for a premium service to deliver data to users more quickly, while others without the means would be relegated to “slow lanes” - putting them at a disadvantage and giving their users a less efficient service.
A provisional proposal from the FCC in May hinted at allowing some "commercially reasonable" deals where, as Reuters points out “content companies, such as Netflix Inc or Amazon.com Inc, could pay ISPs, such as Comcast Corp or Verizon Communications Inc, to ensure smooth and fast delivery of their Web traffic.”
President Obama voiced his opposition to such a possibility at a recent conference with African leaders in Washington, saying that a balanced Internet was important for "the next Google or the next Facebook,” while a New York Times editorial said: "Small and young businesses will not be able to compete against established companies if they have to pay fees to telephone and cable companies to get content to users in a timely manner."
Their sentiments echoed those from some of the one million plus people who contacted the FCC through email, mail and online comment to express concern. The FCC will continue to collect public comments on its net neutrality proposals until September 10th. They have also scheduled six roundtable discussions in Washington throughout September and October, but Senator Leahy has said, as quoted by Reuters, that “Most of (those who had commented on the proposed rules online) will not be able to come to Washington to participate in the roundtables that have been scheduled, but their voices are more important than industry lobbyists and members of Congress." As such, he suggests that roundtables need to be expanded outside of the capital.
The unequivocal New York Times editorial proposed that the FCC “reclassify broadband Internet service as a telecommunications service, which would allow regulators to prohibit phone and cable companies like Verizon and Comcast from engaging in unjust or unreasonable discrimination against content.” They suggest that “The FCC wrongly classified broadband as an information service during the administration of George W. Bush, a decision that has limited the FCC’s ability to protect consumers and smaller Internet firms,” and go on to say that the FCC should “pay attention” to Mr Obama, who has been outspoken on the issue since he was a senator.
Meanwhile, Leahy, who represents Vermont, is quoted by TechCrunch furthering his argument in a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler by pointing to Vermont companies whose success stories were only possible because of “the equalizing power of the Internet.”
Virtual Freedom: Net Neutrality and Free Speech in the Internet Age (Stanford Law Books)