FCC Revises Plan To Regulate Internet After Public Outcry

Giuseppe Macri Tech Editor
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Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is changing the agency’s recent proposal to regulate broadband Internet after a wave of public outcry asserted the agency’s plan would set up a hierarchy of slow-to-fast Internet traffic, and mandate higher payments for acceptable speeds and unfiltered content.

The Wall Street Journal reports the new proposal will make “assurances that the agency won’t allow companies to segregate web traffic into fast and slow lanes,” but will still let Internet service providers broker deals with Internet content creators to pay for faster content delivery to customers under the agency’s supervision.

According to FCC officials, the proposal’s new language will seek to prevent larger ISPs like Comcast from making deals with high-bandwidth content creators like Netflix that include special terms, and will analyze whether ISPs can slow access speeds to non-paying sites and services without such arranged deals.

The new draft will also include protection for startups and companies that need Internet connectivity, but cannot afford to pay additional higher costs for access, and establish a representative with “significant enforcement authority” to defend startups in disputed cases.

Wheeler’s initial proposal, which allowed bloated providers to establish “fast lanes,” was the subject of ferocious pushback from tech companies like Google and Netflix, U.S. senators including Elizabeth Warren and Chuck Schumer and even two of Wheeler’s own commissioners, Jessica Rosenworcel and Ajit Pai.

“The draft is explicit that the goal is to find the best approach to ensure the internet remains open and prevent any practices that threaten it,” an unnamed FCC source said.

According to the Journal, the new draft will include “language that would make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals,” but that Wheeler is still using “the same basic approach” in the initial draft.

The agency is scheduled to vote on formally beginning the review and adoption process Thursday.

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