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Ear to the Ground

FCC Chairman Wants to Help Your Cable Company Screw Up the Internet

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Posted on Apr 23, 2014

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A proposal by FCC chair Tom Wheeler obtained by The Wall Street Journal would allow companies such as Comcast to finally kill net neutrality.

Right now, the FCC doesn’t classify broadband Internet as a common carrier utility. So the cable and fiber service that connects many to the Internet cannot be regulated in the same way as water, power or traditional telephone. Instead, the regulator treats broadband like AOL, because Time Warner—or whichever—gives you an email address and a home page.

Trying to squeeze even more money out of their already lucrative business, broadband providers want to be able to charge Internet companies like Google and Amazon a special fee for preferred access to their customers. A court threw out the FCC’s Open Internet Order preventing that from happening, and now Wheeler, the newly installed chairman who happens to have been the former top lobbyist for both the cable and wireless industries, appears to have sided with the ISPs.

In a strongly worded editorial, The Verge suggests that the FCC will likely vote along partisan lines, with Wheeler lining up behind the commission’s two Republicans. That means “one of the most destructive technology policies in American history could ultimately be decided on a 3-2 vote.”

Following the FCC’s first net neutrality defeat, freshly-appointed chairman Tom Wheeler said he’ll “fight to preserve” the open internet, but didn’t specify how he’d do it. If the latest proposal passes, the only thing Wheeler will be preserving are the interests of companies that want to make the internet worse for all of us.

Speaking of Verge editorials, be sure to read “The Internet Is Fucked,” which covers much of this in more extensive and explicit detail.

Another great resource for all things net neutrality is the advocacy operation Save the Internet, which is maintained by Free Press.

—Posted by Peter Z. Scheer

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