By KYW tech editor Ian Bush
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — It’s a significant blow to supporters of net neutrality — the rules that ensure all Internet content is kept on a level playing field as it heads to your screen. The FCC next month will consider a new proposal that opens up an express lane for web companies that pay more.
The rules would let Amazon stream video to you faster than Netflix, for example, if Amazon forked over more cash to Verizon or Comcast.
The Wall Street Journal reports the FCC would call for a baseline level of service and Internet providers wouldn’t be allowed to slow sites below that mark or block them outright.
“I think that’s a reasonable compromise for the time being,” says Robert Field, a professor at Drexel University School of Law.
Field says the proposal reflects current political realities — as well as the landscape created when a federal court earlier this year tossed out the FCC’s previous rules on net neutrality, saying the commission was treating ISPs like public utilities, in violation of an earlier ruling.
“I think it begins to create a risk that the Internet will not be as open as it has been. A risk that in order to reach viewers, you will have to pay extra to carriers to get the bandwidth that you need. I think for right now, we still have a reasonable open Internet. But going into the future, I think there is a danger that to reach people with streaming video or other high-use services, you’re going to have to pay up,” Field said.
He says that would disadvantage small and upstart providers.
“I think we’re seeing just the start of ongoing business battles between the titans of the Internet world — the carriers and the content providers, and it’s only going to get more intense as time goes forward. As the technology advances, we’re going to see more and more of it. This is just the first installment.”
Neutrality advocates say the access costs would be passed along to us. Critics say consumers would benefit from increased competition.
The FCC will vote on the proposal in May, with the commission taking public comment if it gets the thumbs-up.