FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed rules that threaten the free an open internet that we enjoy today. Under the new rules, content providers would have to pay for premium access to customers. Larger companies such as Hulu, Netflix, YouTube, and Amazon would be able to pay these access fees. But smaller startups or individuals with little funding would not be able to afford this, and would be at a competitive disadvantage. The internet is full of innovations that started as small startups with little funding, like Facebook, eBay, Yahoo, and even Google. These proposed rules from the FCC would prevent new startups from emerging.
Net Neutrality isn't dead, though. The FCC does have the option to reclassify internet service as telecommunications service and adopt network neutrality rules under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. These rules would be unencumbered by Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act, which requires the FCC to allow access fees.
UPDATE: TWiT's Denise Howell discussed the possibility that adopting the rules of Title II could also have consequences. Find out more on This Week in Law episode 258. Ultimately, it's important to let the FCC know that we want to preserve the free and open internet as a utility, and not allow companies or organizations paying premium access fees.
The Commission will be voting on the issue on May 15, and they are currently asking the public to send in their thoughts to firstname.lastname@example.org. There's also a list of email addresses, phone numbers, and mailing addresses for all of the FCC commissioners, including Chairman Tom Wheeler at fcc.gov/contact-us.
UPDATE: The FCC has voted 3-2 to move forward with, and publish, the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on net neutrality. While the FCC claims these rules would protect the internet, they still are leaving it open for companies to have the ability to pay for faster access to customers. Read the whole document at fcc.gov. This new plan will be open for public comment for 4 months. Read more on the issue at wsj.com.
For a more complete explanation of why net neutrality is critical, check out this article from Stanford.edu: The FCC Changed Course on Net Neutrality, Here's Why You Should Care. Hear Leo Laporte's comments on the FCC's proposed rules on The Tech Guy episode 1078 from Sunday, April 27.