On Tuesday, Democratic congressmen introduced a bill to combat the progression toward the creation of internet ‘fast lanes’. The proposed bill would place a requirement on the FCC to prevent the speeding up of some internet connections.
Currently, internet service providers (ISPs) are capable of providing priority data transfer speeds to specific entities. One of the most publicized occurrences of this practice played out between Comcast and Netflix. Netflix customers on Comcast’s network were experiencing problems with latency on the network. In order to ensure the effective delivery of Netflix’s streaming data to customers, Netflix paid a premium to Comcast in order to place its information closer to users.
A number of other ISPs, like Google Fiber, do not charge companies for improving their data delivery speeds. Consumer advocates argue that the practice of such preferential data delivery, as was engaged in by Comcast, is detrimental to the economy and counter to the spirit of openness and fairness that have been staples of the internet for so long.
The practice of providing equal and non-preferential data delivery is the crux of the concept of Net Neutrality. Most other online nations have strong net neutrality rules, in order to prevent corporations from having the power to censor online content.
Under FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the telecommunications industry, the practice of “tiered” internet access has risen to a fever pitch and now the FCC is evaluating how to respond.
Unfortunately, the issue is falling down party lines, with Democrats favoring the protection of users and Republicans favoring the empowerment of the ISPs. In order to correct the current course of freedom on the internet, the FCC and Congress need to reclassify the ISPs as common carriers and bring them under the regulatory provisions of a utility, and preventing them from providing these paid ‘fast lanes’.