FCC Yields to Public Pressure, Revises Net Neutrality Plan

by Matt Klassen on May 14, 2014

Responding to the outpouring of criticism of his latest rules for Net Neutrality, rules that reportedly would have allowed preferential paid Internet service, Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler is revising his plan according to the Wall Street Journal, this time with assurances that providers will not be able to segregate online traffic into fast and slow lanes.

The change coincides with increased pressure from grassroots Net Neutrality movements; concerned online users who have increasingly been making their voices heard when it comes to policies surrounding the FCC’s Open Internet agenda. Digital-rights advocate Free Press, along with groups such as MoveOn.org and mobile operator CREDO—which has a social activist arm—have organized protests and awareness campaigns to get the attention of Congress and the FCC, letting them know that providers don’t own the Internet.

While such grassroots campaigns are laudable (and necessary) seeing Chairman Wheeler continue to flip flop on the contents of Net Neutrality make him seem more like the desired play toy of two disagreeable children, both trying to pull the toy one way or another. So while today it’s the supporters of Net Neutrality who have seemingly won the day, there’s nothing to say that tomorrow it won’t be the broadband provider lobbyists yanking FCC policy in the opposite direction.

“Chairman Wheeler is feeling the grassroots pressure against his pay-for-prioritization proposal,” Free Press CEO Craig Aaron said in an announcement of planned protests. “He needs to abandon the flimsy and failed legal approach of his predecessors and reclassify Internet service providers as the common carriers they are. If preventing fast and slow lanes on the Internet is the goal, reclassification is the way forward.”

While advocacy groups may be claiming victory in this latest round of the Net Neutrality saga, it should be noted that some more established voices weighed in on Wheeler’s proposed plan as well, the redrafting coming just days after the world’s top tech firms pleaded with the FCC to establish firm Net Neutrality standards that protect a free and open Internet.

Companies like Google, Microsoft, Amazon, Twitter, Facebook, Yahoo, eBay, and dozens of others signed a letter (PDF) to the FCC last week begging for a “free and open Internet,” urging the FCC to create enforceable rules to protect users and, of course, Internet companies.

But again, whether it was grassroots protests or the leverage of the entire tech industry that swayed Wheeler to altering the language of his most recent Net Neutrality proposal, the fact that he is so eminently swayable is the real problem here, as while I’m encouraged that he has decided to do away with paid preferential treatment, there’s nothing to say that tomorrow will be something entirely different indeed.

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Written by: Matt Klassen. www.digitcom.ca. Follow TheTelecomBlog.com by: RSS, Twitter, Facebook, or YouTube.

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