Last night a Wall Street Journal story by Gautham Nagesh reported that recent widespread concerns about the end of net neutrality are being finessed to some extent. “The head of the Federal Communications Commission is revising proposed rules for regulating broadband internet,” Nagesh reported, “including offering assurances that the agency won’t allow companies to segregate web traffic into fast and slow lanes.”
“The new language by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is an attempt to address criticism of his proposal unveiled last month that would ban broadband providers from blocking or slowing down websites but allow them to strike deals in which content companies could pay them for faster delivery of Web content to customers.
“The plan has drawn criticism from a wide range of players in the technology world, including Google Inc., Netflix Inc. and dozens of prominent tech investors, who say that such deals will inherently segregate the internet into fast and slow lanes.
“In the new draft, Mr. Wheeler is sticking to the same basic approach but will include language that would make clear that the FCC will scrutinize the deals to make sure that the broadband providers don’t unfairly put nonpaying companies’ content at a disadvantage, according to an agency official.
“The official said the draft would also seek comment on whether such agreements, called ‘paid prioritization,’ should be banned outright, and look to prohibit the big broadband companies, such as Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc. from doing deals with some content companies on terms that they aren’t offering to others.
Wheeler “is trying to address the backlash to his initial proposal while sticking to what he thinks will be the fastest course of action.”
“‘The new draft clearly reflects the public input the commission has received,’ one of the FCC officials said, noting that the proposal seeks specific comment on the benefits of reclassifying broadband as a utility.
“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. But Mr. Wheeler’s modifications aren’t likely to mollify critics of the plan, especially those who are calling for a purely neutral internet in which all traffic is treated the same.”
From N.Y. Times media savant David Carr: “Why should you, as someone who just wants to use the web to surf or watch programming, care whether companies like Netflix and Hulu have to pay companies like Comcast and Verizon to ensure smooth feeds? Well, even though consumers won’t be charged directly for the faster service, we all know where those fee increases will end up landing.
“I just received a notice from Netflix that the price of a new membership is rising $1, to $8.99. It’s still small money and a bargain at that, but as its costs and that of other companies go up, what had been a cheap alternative for lots of programming could start to become costly.”