Has Internet Civil War begun after FCC weakens net neutrality?

Posted at 1:32 PM, May 16, 2014
and last updated 2014-05-16 13:56:32-04
Protesters with picket signs in front of the FCC. PHOTO: CNN

Protesters with picket signs in front of the FCC. PHOTO: CNN

The Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to move forward with a proposal that would allow broadband providers to charge companies like Amazon, Google and Netflix for faster data lanes to deliver video and other content, and now the Internet and protesters are reacting.

FCC chairman Tom Wheeler has been at the center of controversy over the so-called fast lane proposal. In remarks ahead of the commission’s vote, he sought to reassure Internet freedom activists, saying he remains committed to an “open Internet.”

Essentially this fast lane proposal means that individuals will pay more to have the access they currently have on the internet, because those pipes will be controlled based on business arrangements  with Internet service providers.

Under his plan, Wheeler said, broadband companies won’t be allowed to block legal content outright or slow traffic below a certain acceptable threshold of service.

Meanwhile the Internet is in an uproar over Wheeler,  a veteran telecommunications lobbyist, and his plan. Hundreds camped outside the FCC, beginning a week before the Thursday hearing.

Now to protest the commissioner’s decision, various companies and organizations have added code to their websites that kicks in whenever there’s a visit from someone who works at the FCC.

While everyone else is enjoying these websites at ordinary broadband speeds, this code ensures that FCC staffers view them at dial-up speeds reminiscent of the 1990s, as reported by Wired. 

The blog post, written by Kyle Drake, explain the software developers intent and strategy of throttling access.

Drake explains that “Net Neutrality [works] as an anti-discrimination policy for the net.”

“It’s easy for anyone to throttle an IP block, because we’ve developed this technology to enable us to fight against spammers and botnets. And combined with geographical data, I could do some serious discrimination on the internet. For example, I could compile an IP block list of the most conservative places in the country, and prevent them from accessing my site. I could use demographics to do this in some very exotic ways. I could block districts that have high percentages of minorities, or the highest rates of heterosexual couples, or the youngest population, or the highest percentage of mental health problems. You name it, the data is out there. We have regional demographic statistics for pretty much every topic.”

There’s still a lot left to be resolved — the proposal is now open for public comment for the next four months, and could be changed before a final vote to implement it.

Net neutrality supporters worry that any system in which companies can pay for faster access to consumers will disadvantage smaller websites and applications against larger, deep-pocketed rivals.

They also worry that if content providers are forced to pay broadband companies more for high-speed delivery, those costs will be passed onto consumers.

Frustration also runs high with President Obama, who visited Google headquarters during his first presidential campaign, and spoke strongly in favor of net neutrality. He picked Julius Genachowski, a strong proponent of net neutrality to lead the FCC.

In May 2013, President Obama filled the position with Wheeler. Wheeler, as previously mentioned, was the president of the lobby group the National Cable and Telecommunications Association (NCTA).

That organization was spending about 95 times more money lobbying the FCC than the Internet Association, which represents the tech companies that favor net neutrality.


Here’s how you can make a public comment to the FCC.

Here’s how you can contact your Congresssman about net neutrality. 

***CNN Newsource reports were used in this article***