More than 100 major technology companies have voiced opposition against a new proposal from Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler that would make concessions to a “pay to play” model of network management that would allow ISPs to charge companies for preferential treatment.
These new rules, which are currently scheduled to be voted on May 15, are expected to strike a major blow against “net neutrality,” the concept that ISPs should treat all data that travels over their networks equally.
The proposal by Wheeler, a former government lobbyist, has been opposed in writing by the likes of Google, Reddit, Facebook, Amazon, and dozens of other companies. The letter states that the FCC should not permit “individualised bargaining and discrimination.”
The Open Internet Order, a prior attempt by the FCC to set forth regulations in favor of net neutrality, was rejected in January by a federal court on the grounds that it exceeded the FCC’s authority.
According to the FCC, the latest plan will forbid ISPs from acting in a “commercially unreasonable manner to harm the Internet, including favoring the traffic from an affiliated entity.” This ambiguous wording has many worried that it could be “commercially reasonable” to allow ISPs to charge companies like Netflix or Amazon extra to for better network speeds.
There are also voices of dissent within the government agency itself. FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel has stated that the rulemaking should be postponed for at least a month to give the public adequate time to respond to Wheeler’s proposal.
Fearing what will happen to its users, web host Neocities is throttling all connections from the FCC to 28.8kbps modem speeds on the Neocities.org front site (identifying visitors based on the FCC’s internal IP block).
While it’s doubtful that anyone at the FCC will find their access to Neocities personally limiting, this is in an attempt to demonstrate how treating online entities differently online could make the internet a fragmented place where individuals and companies need to negotiate network speeds rather than making everything fast and available to everyone else.