Ahead of a scheduled vote by the Federal Communications Commission on net neutrality-which involves the FCC potentially limiting the ability of Internet service providers such as AT&T, Verizon and Comcast to restrict certain content and sites from their data networks-a Republican commissioner for the FCC said the commission is not listening to the "needs of the market" and warned that the proposal could result in job losses.
Robert McDowell, a Republican commissioner of the FCC, called the net neutrality proposal a "threat to Internet freedom" in an opinion piece published in The Wall Street Journal. In it, McDowell argues that consumer protection, which net neutrality advocates say is lacking, is adequate, and government intervention into the Internet is misguided.
"Analysts and broadband companies of all sizes have told the FCC that new rules are likely to have a perverse effect of inhibiting capital investment, deterring innovation, raising operating costs, and ultimately increasing consumer prices," he wrote.
The proposal would build upon a framework developed by House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman and Sen. Harry Waxman, D-Calif., which would see the agency move phone and cable companies into the Title II, or Broadcast Servers, section of the Telecommunications Act passed in 1996. In September, legislation aimed at regulating how Internet providers such as Comcast offer Internet service to their customers collapsed in the face of Republican opposition.
Waxing poetic, McDowell ended the piece invoking the impending winter solstice, the darkest day of the year. "On this winter solstice, we will witness jaw-dropping interventionist chutzpah as the FCC bypasses branches of our government in the dogged pursuit of needless and harmful regulation," McDowell wrote. "The darkest day of the year may end up marking the beginning of a long winter's night for Internet freedom."
Others argue that the proposal doesn't go far enough in protecting consumers. Andrew Jay Schwartzman, senior vice president and policy director of the Media Access Project, told Reuters it "is likely that there is going to be strong language disfavoring" paid prioritization, a type of "fast-lane" service that allows content to be downloaded more quickly. Whatever the outcome of this battle, Schwartzman told the news service he doesn't see this as the end of the war over Internet regulation. "I would expect challenges from all directions-people who think it's gone too far and people who think it hasn't gone far enough," he said.
Earlier this month, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski laid out the general framework for a net neutrality proposal he said was designed to empower consumers and entrepreneurs, spur investment in broadband infrastructure, and address the needs of Internet service providers. The chairman laid out four points of the framework, which he said were rooted in ideas advocated in a bipartisan spirit and consistent with President Obama's commitment to keep the Internet "as it should be, open and free."
"Broadband providers have prevented consumers from using the applications of their choice. The framework is designed to guard against these risks while protecting the needs and interests of providers," he said during the Dec. 2 press conference in Washington. "Broadband plays an essential part in allowing small businesses to lower their costs and reach new customers around the globe. It is the Internet's openness and freedom that have enabled its unparalleled success. It is a quality that must be preserved and protected."