[JURIST] Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] Chairman Tom Wheeler [official profile] on Thursday announced [press release] plans to adopt new rules to protect open Internet access and ensure Internet service providers (ISPs) promote transparency with their consumers. Experts say the new rules will create a “fast lane” for certain websites and services, which may enable companies to enter into pay-for-play agreements [WP report] with ISPs to ensure their data is transmitted at a faster speed for special services or during periods of high demand. The proposed rules are a switch from the FCC’s position in recent years on the issue of net neutrality, which requires ISPs to employ nondiscriminatory practices in the treatment of Internet content. Senior FCC officials referenced [CNN report] fair competition and innovation as their primary concerns with the new rules. Additionally, the FCC has created a new inbox [FCC notice] for comments related to the open internet debate in preparation for the May 15 Open Commission Meeting [FCC agenda] which will formally reveal and discuss the proposed rules along with public comments on the issue. Several advocacy groups including the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) [advocacy website] oppose [ACLU petition] the FCC rules on the grounds that allowing ISPs to bid on Internet connectivity will impose a detriment to smaller companies that have fewer resources and hinder equal opportunity on the Internet.
Net neutrality has emerged as a major political issue in the US and internationally. Earlier this month the European Parliament approved [JURIST report] a net neutrality proposal that prohibits ISPs from enhancing or restricting services for selected Internet traffic. The proposed law, approved by a 534-25 vote with 58 abstentions, aims to treat all Internet traffic equally by making it illegal to block, slow down, or give preferential treatment to certain specific applications and services for economic or other reasons. In February, the FCC announced it will not appeal [JURIST report] the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit decision [opinion, PDF] from January 2014 which struck down [JURIST report] the former proposed rules which required broadband providers to employ nondiscriminatory practices in the treatment of Internet content.