Net neutrality: Will the FCC's new Internet policy help consumers?
A divided FCC approved regulation aimed at protecting 'Internet freedom and openness.' But critics of Net neutrality say the policy is unnecessary and will squelch innovation.
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Mr. Genachowski outlined the plan's basic principles:Skip to next paragraph
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• Transparency for consumers about how the Internet's core players manage the network.
• A right for consumers and innovators to send and receive lawful traffic and to connect devices of their choice to the network.
• A level playing field, in which government regulators don't pick winners and losers.
• Reasonable flexibility for network management and service pricing, to promote investment and innovation by private firms.
FCC critics on the left say that, by stepping back from bolder ideas it had considered earlier this year, the agency has caved in to corporate interests. The group Free Press, for example, argues the commission should issue an outright ban on "paid prioritization" deals, in which an Internet service provider cuts deals that put data from some clients on a faster track than others. (The FCC said such deals are "unlikely to satisfy" its new policy.)
But on the right, critics say the FCC is trying to fix something that's not broken, and that existing antitrust laws can be used to protect consumers if the need arises. Further, they say, the FCC has no authority from Congress to regulate the Internet.
Some rules better than none
A middle view, held by other analysts of the high-tech scene, is that the new rules will be better than either tougher regulation or taking no new action. The policies may help consumers while defusing a battle within the industry over how to regulate the Web.
President Obama issued a statement calling the FCC's decision a victory for consumers, free speech, and "American innovation."
"Unanimity on Net Neutrality may be impossible, but inaction is unacceptable," the groups said this month, as the FCC unveiled general outlines of the plan. They argued that a failure to act would allow "network operators to discriminate at will."
Some tech analysts warn that the new proposal will cause some Web users to pay higher prices.
The new policy allows Internet service providers to charge heavy users more than light users. Someone who gets lots of video feeds via Netflix, for instance, could end up paying a higher price for their Web access than someone who doesn't use the Web for video.