Republicans and Democrats also are squaring off. A vote to seek public comment over the next four months on the FCC proposal narrowly passed on a partisan vote of 3-2, with three Democrats in favor and two Republicans opposed.
There are plenty of misgivings and concerns about the proposal itself from every side. Now the debate is on, with each side hoping to work toward an outcome that enshrines its principles.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler says he wants to create regulations that would keep Internet providers from blocking or slowing website access or services. But the proposed regulations also leave the door open for providers, such as Comcast, AT&T and Verizon, to charge content companies for faster service.
Critics say the proposal would create “fast” lanes for companies that can afford to pay for them but leave smaller, less wealthy companies with slower delivery options.
Steps would be taken to prevent “acts to divide the Internet between ‘have’ and ‘have-nots’,” says Wheeler, in a Reuters’ article.
“I will not allow the national asset of an open Internet to be compromised,” he said. “The prospect of a gatekeeper choosing winners and losers on the Internet is unacceptable.”
However, defining “net neutrality” is a sticking point for many people.
A federal appeals court struck down a prior attempt from 2010 at “net neutrality” and raised concerns about deals to pay for faster service.
This latest proposal bans discrimination but still allows providers to charge for prioritizing traffic services. At the same time, it also asks for public comment on whether “some or all” of these types of pay deals should be allowed.
The new proposal recommends re-classifying Internet access as a utility-like service which can be subject to stricter regulations than currently apply.
As reported by the New York Times, Verizon Communications, which challenged the earlier proposal, dislikes this approach because it is a throwback to 1930s outdated regulations put in place for land-line phone service.
Republicans argue that the FCC is overstepping its regulatory authority. The issue should be resolved by elected officials in Congress, they say.
But net neutrality advocates and Democrats say abuses are inevitable unless there are regulations to ban discrimination and the FCC has authority to hold companies accountable.
According to recode.net, the FCC’s authority to regulate Internet lines was curtailed in 2002 as part of the Bush-era deregulation efforts. Internet lines were redefined as “information services” and providers had free rein to do as they pleased.