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The FCC's Net Neutrality Turnaround

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April 23, 2014

Today, the FCC announced plans to completely reverse their previous position on net neutrality. Edward Wyatt, for the New York Times:

The Federal Communications Commission will propose new rules that allow Internet service providers to offer a faster lane through which to send video and other content to consumers, as long as a content company is willing to pay for it, according to people briefed on the proposals.

The proposed rules are a complete turnaround for the F.C.C. on the subject of so-called net neutrality, the principle that Internet users should have equal ability to see any content they choose, and that no content providers should be discriminated against in providing their offerings to consumers.

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Proponents of net neutrality have feared that such a framework would empower large, wealthy companies and prevent small start-ups, which might otherwise be the next Twitter or Facebook, for example, from gaining any traction in the market.

If this goes through, the consequences are immense. As consumers, we're looking at higher subscription prices as content companies try to subsidize the new fees they're paying internet service providers for faster and more reliable streaming. These payoffs will be exorbitantly high, making it nearly impossible for newcomers to slip in with lower subscription prices because they won't be able to pay for the same speeds as Netflix, Disney, and other giants. The FCC is legally allowing the ISPs to rip the content companies off, and encouraging content giants like Netflix, Disney and HBO to entrench themselves against future competitors who can't afford to buy into the internet "fast lane". Worse, the charges for this fast lane are completely at the discretion of the ISPs, so they can charge more to one company as to another for the same service. The potential for unfairness and corruption is mind boggling.

The neutrality of the internet, which until now has been fair for every content provider, is being put in the hands of Comcast, AT&T, Verizon, and others like them. Maybe I'm wrong, but to me these don't seem like the most trustworthy companies to hand the equality of the internet over to. (▼)(▲)I'm not wrong.