Groups contest FCC net neutrality proposal

A wide selection of public interest groups is arguing that the open Internet principles suggested by the FCC last week fall short of “real” net neutrality

More than 80 public interest groups, businesses and civil rights groups signed the letter to the Federal Communications Commission, saying net neutrality rules should ban paid prioritisation of online content. They also contend that the framework FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski laid out last week gave wireless carriers too much freedom to police Internet traffic.

“This is a make-or-break issue, and the signatories on this letter are unequivocal in their demand that fatal flaws with Chairman Genachowski’s draft proposal be fixed immediately,” Sascha Meinrath, director of New America Foundation’s Open Technology Initiative, said. Genachowski proposed banning the blocking of lawful traffic but allowing Internet providers to manage network congestion and charge consumers based on Internet usage.

The FCC is scheduled to adopt the open Internet rules at its Dec. 21 meeting. Specific details of the draft order have not been made public as the commissioners are still working to shape the final proposal.

In the letter, the groups identified what they consider to be shortfalls in the proposal that could allow Internet providers to “harm consumers, stifle innovation and threaten to carve up the Internet in irreversible ways.” The letter also called for a clear ban on paid prioritisation, or charging content providers for a fast lane to reach users more quickly.

“This unacceptable loophole threatens to swallow the entire rule,” the letter said of the ambiguity surrounding the proposal’s ban on “unjust and unreasonable” discrimination.

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