The public pushback continues against proposed Internet rules that would allow businesses to pay for faster content-delivery speeds—what detractors are calling a “fast lane.”
The Progressive Change Campaign Committee (PCCC) has launched a video created by animators at Pixel Valley Studio, encouraging Internet users—younger users and gamers are the most clearly intended audiences—to sign a petition at NoSlowLane.com.
Titled 2084 Calling, the video features an avatar that tells viewers that in the year 2084, only big corporations can afford premium service and all other traffic has been relegated to the slow lane.
“It’s like living in the laggiest game you’ve ever played. That kills the startups and competition. Innovation dried up. And all we have left is the junk that the big corporations want us to see,” the avatar says.
The NoSlowLane effort has also been backed by Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who in a video posted to YouTube calls net neutrality “the free speech issue of our time.”
To illustrate the kind of innovation that could be lost, Franken tells the story of how YouTube was created “over a pizzeria in San Mateo,” in response to how lousy Google TV was. Because the two offerings ran at the same speeds, it made it simple for viewers to choose and support the option they liked best. Since then, Google has bought YouTube and “everyone has benefitted.”
If a fast lane is allowed, “mom and pop stores would lose even more ground to corporate giants. Big media giants would be able to get their version of the news to consumers faster and would end up paying for it with higher rates for [consumers’] Internet service,” Franken continues.
“We cannot allow the FCC to implement a pay-to-play system that silences our voices and amplifies that of big corporate interests. We have come to a crossroads. Now is the time to rise up. … We paid for a free and open Internet. We can’t let it be taken away.”
In January, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruled, in Verizon vs. FCC, that Verizon isn’t beholden to the FCC’s Open Internet Order regulations (which require all online traffic to be treated equally) because Internet service providers (ISPs) aren’t categorized as “common carriers”—essentially, public utilities under a Title II umbrella. Since then, the FCC has been working on a fix, whether via a new set of rules or by re-categorizing ISPs.
On May 15, the FCC voted to adopt Chairman Tom Wheeler’s Open Internet Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, which moved the FCC a step closer to putting new rules in place. The Notice has raised controversy for leaving open the potential for prioritized service.
Pushback on Pay-for-Priority Internet Rules Heats Up Further
At the May 15 meeting, Wheeler insisted he supports an open Internet and applauded the public “outpouring of concern” around the issue.
“I don’t like the idea of an Internet divided into haves and have-nots, and I will work to see that that does not happen,” he said.
On May 7, 149 online companies, including Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Twitter and Microsoft, wrote to the FCC to ask it to defend the principles of net neutrality.
“The commission’s rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent,” the companies said.
A few dozen famous creative types, including filmmaker Oliver Stone, the bank OK Go and comedian Fred Armisen, wrote to the FCC May 13, likewise calling on it to protect the “communications medium of our era” from “pay-for-priority schemes.”
The same day, 28 ISPs wrote the FCC, insisting that “the open Internet has nothing to do with Title II regulation and Title II has nothing to do with the open Internet.”
Classifying the Internet as a utility, they said, would replace innovation and experimentation with “Government, may I?” requests from entrepreneurs.
Also as part of its May 23 NoSlowLane efforts, the PCCC highlighted that it has the backing of celebrities George Takei, Alyssa Milano and Wil Wheaton, as well as Joe Niederberger, the New Jersey Web designer who, in 2007, asked then-presidential-hopeful Barack Obama during an MTV Q&A whether he would only support FCC commissioners who back an open Internet and net neutrality principles.
“The answer is yes,” said Obama. “I am a strong supporter of net neutrality.”
Pay for priority, Obama goes on to say, “destroys one of the best things about the Internet, which is that there’s this incredible equality there. … Facebook, MySpace, Google might not have been started, if you had not had a level playing field for whoever’s got the best idea. And I want to maintain that basic principle.”
As of this story’s publication, the NoSlowLane petition was 94 percent of the way toward its goal of 150,000 signatures.