Net neutrality blow: FCC votes to advance two-tiered Internet plan
Michelle Clancy
| 16 May 2014
Sparking widespread protest, the Federal Communications Commission has voted to advance to the public comment period Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal to create a two-tiered Internet.

The proposal would pave the way for separating Web traffic into fast and slower lanes. ISPs would not be able to throttle Websites or discriminate against specific traffics, but companies could pay to be placed in a fast track to improve the Quality of Experience for their end users.

The proposal will be subject to four months of public comment.

Wheeler added that, should the proposal eventually become policy, the commission will reserve the right to review any paid arrangements carefully. "I will not allow the national asset of an open Internet to be compromised," Wheeler said. "The prospect of a gatekeeper choosing winners and losers on the Internet is unacceptable."

Critics have nonetheless been concerned that allowing this scheme would essentially translate into smaller Web companies being squeezed out of the market, because only the larger ones would have the ability to pay the toll. And that in turn, they say, would result in a stifling of innovation, a reduction in the marketplace of ideas and the killing of the long-tail economy that has sustained the Internet to date.

Dozens protested the vote at the FCC, and critics were quick to weigh in on the decision.

"An open Internet levels the playing field in our democracy and that's why it's so alarming that the FCC is moving forward chairman Tom Wheeler's proposed rules that would break President Obama's promise to uphold Net Neutrality – rules that could destroy the Internet as we know it," said Victoria Kaplan, lead campaign director for Political Action

MoveOn also called on President Obama to publicly oppose this plan and industry players have already condemned the plan.

Bulent Celebi, chairman and co-founder of AirTies Wireless Networks said that the only way to go forward was to turn the Internet into a utility. "The Internet is not treated as a utility at the moment and so it isn't regulated as such. If the FCC goes forward with its proposals for an 'open Internet' with providers allowed to strike deals with content companies for faster service, then regulation will have to come into force to make sure monopolies do not form and start-ups are not stifled by their inability to access to 'fast lanes'...

"I would caution that the industry will need to develop systems to keep up with customer's desire for consuming high amounts of data. We know that on-demand video services are becoming increasing popular, yet we still do not have the infrastructure in place to cope with the public's appetite for it. We are already seeing cable and satellite providers struggling to provide the speeds and data necessary to provide video services to multiple devices around the home. If providers are to deliver this service they will need to either be allowed to access faster speeds or alternatively put technology in place which allows customers to access faultless multi-device, multi-room content streaming. "