R.I.P., net neutrality?

This just in: Top Wireless Firms Plot to Make Wireless Users Pay Per Page, from DailyTech.com. Maybe the worst-case scenario isn’t so far-fetched after all. – AC

Sometime today, the U.S. Federal Communications Commission is expected to vote on a rule that will allow a two-tiered system of Internet access. This rule, if approved (and it appears to be a done deal), would open the door to make portions of the Internet off-limits.

This rule would kill the concept of net neutrality, which argues against tiered rates for different types of service. Net-neutrality advocates support the idea of a level playing field on the Internet.

Instead of net neutrality, however, the new rule “would allow mobile internet service providers to charge content companies for more efficient delivery to US homes,” according to this report from the Guardian. “Wireless providers will also be allowed to block applications or services, providing that they are not competitors. Fixed-line and wireless provider Verizon, for example, would not be allowed to block access to Skype because it provides a rival voice service.”

After the FCC approves the new regs, you’ll probably hear them spinning the vote as a strong stand in favor of net neutrality and consumers’ rights. Don’t be fooled.

While the rule would keep much of the “land-line” Internet more or less neutral, it exempts the growing and thriving mobile Internet from those protections. As Timothy Karr points out in his Huffington Post piece, the proposed rule “enshrines Verizon and AT&T as gatekeepers to the expanding world of mobile Internet access, allowing them to favor their own applications while blocking, degrading or de-prioritizing others.”

That may be a worst-case scenario, but it isn’t much of a stretch. Karr adds:

[T]he Commission has opened the door for broadband payola — letting phone and cable companies charge steep tolls to favor the content and services of a select group of corporate partners, relegating everyone else to the cyber-equivalent of a winding dirt road.

… Instead of re-establishing the FCC’s authority to act as a consumer watchdog over the Internet, it places the agency’s authority on a shaky and indefensible legal footing — giving ultimate control over the Internet to a small handful of carriers.

It may be too late to do much about this, but the Save the Internet Foundation is rallying net-neutrality supporters in a last-minute effort to get President Obama to uphold his pledge to support net neutrality. If you care about this matter, then I encourage you to add your name to the petition to President Obama.

The only other thing to do right now is enjoy the message of Pete Townsend and the Who, as relevant today as it was 40 years ago. Think about net neutrality and the art of political compromise that is playing out once again in Washington, D.C., as you enjoy this wonderful acoustic solo performance of Townsend singing “We Won’t Get Fooled Again.” It’s coming your way via YouTube, which is still available to you free of charge. So enjoy it while you can.

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Author: andrewcareaga

Higher ed PR and marketing guy. Communications director for Missouri University of Science and Technology (Missouri S&T) in Rolla, Missouri, USA. Slow runner, mediocre guitarist, lover of music and puns, and an avid St. Louis Cardinals fan. I blog and Tweet about #highered, #music, #gocards and #random stuff.

2 thoughts on “R.I.P., net neutrality?”

  1. The idea of this is pretty scary but I think that the wireless companies are not prepared for the massive influx of customer service calls and complaints when users can get to certain pages.

    They may think that content publishers will pay up but the reality is that many won’t even know it’s an option. Meanwhile their user base will be complaining to the wireless company.

    Time to open up another call center.

  2. Thanks for the added perspective, Brad. Here’s another one, from Balloon Juice, which was shared by a friend via Facebook. The money quote may provide a bit of cold comfort:

    “[Y]ou can take the same view of net neutrality as most of us have adopted about HCR: it’s the best that the Obama administration could do, given a political landscape where corporations completely control Republicans, and where it takes superhuman efforts to get most Democrats to vote against corporate interests. I’m choosing to hate the game on this one, because at least we’re getting a vestige of wired net neutrality that would be inconceivable under a Republican administration.”

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