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The President wants to eliminate the ability of internet providers blocking or slowing the feed to customers who pay less and offer faster streaming only to premium customers. The F.C.C. chairman, Tom Wheeler, is expected to propose new regulations that would make the internet a regulated utility. This plan is supported by President Obama and considered to ensure net-neutrality.
Until February 26th the FCC will be contemplating and drafting what rules will be put in place meanwhile, the process to determine those rules takes place out of the public view. Commissioner Pai felt that the FCC should be as open and transparent as the internet. The other commissioner, Michael O’Reilly said he was not able to talk about the upcoming document in a tweet. Both commissioners and Congress requested the document be made public.
Wheeler is a former lobbyist for cable television and wireless industries. Until recently he leaned in favor of little to no new regulations over the internet. Then last week Wheeler wrote in a Wired magazine article that the industry needs strong oversight, a plan which supports of regulating feel would contribute to net-neutrality.
“My proposal assures the rights of Internet users to go where they want, when they want,” Wheeler wrote. He goes on to say that innovators need not ask anyone’s permission to introduce new products, another strong argument in favor of net-neutrality. Many innovations come from startups and often times they do not have the deep pockets, keeping the internet accessible to all levels the innovation playing field.
Wheeler was nominated by Obama in 2013 to head the FCC. The White House does not have control over the FCC as it is an independent agency.
In a letter, Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) asked Wheeler to explain his decision that seems to be a new way of thinking for him. Johnson also asked in the letter, for information relating to White house meetings and correspondence concerning to this issue. He told Wheeler he was concerned about pressure from the White House. Presently there are two congressional committees investigating this.
In contrast the president of the consumer group Public Knowledge, Gene Kimmelman, praised Wheeler’s direction as “a historic moment for applying the Communications Act to preserve freedom of expression.” He went on in his praise describing the tenants of net-neutrality saying, that the FCC chairman is protecting and promoting freedom of expression, more so that anything in done in decades of debate regarding how broadband services should be treated, using targeted nondiscrimination policing powers.
Internet service providers are in favor of loose, if any controls from the FCC. With fewer controls, an ISP that also provides cable or television viewing capability, could limit the video feed for a competitor thereby making the product they have appear superior. Net-neutrality gives everyone using the internet the same access.
John Oliver, who became widely known appearing on “The Daily Show” with Jon Stewart, initiated a campaign with an avalanche of communication to the FCC after a segment where he ranted on for over 10 minutes with targeted accusations at the FCC and even Wheeler. Nearly 4 million comments from Americans inundated the FCC, smashing the previous record, which stood since Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” at the Super Bowl.
Clearly the camps are divided and there are a lot of emotions involved in this high stakes scenario. Decisions made today affect the technology of tomorrow. With more devices using technology that relies on internet capability, planning for the future is crucial. A plan for net-neutrality now must have foresight to allow the technology to continue evolving.
By Ailey Hines
Photo by CLUC’s Flickr Page – License