The Open Internet is Threatened by the Federal Communications Commission

Onward Oregon and Portland Radio Station X-Ray FM ask you to help save Net Neutrality by submitting your comments to the FCC. Submit your comments by August 31.

The internet is a critical part of America’s infrastructure, almost as important as the electrical grid and water systems. As the conventional news media become controlled by fewer and fewer corporations, the Internet takes on increased importance as a conduit for accurate news and free expression. We’re told by FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler that the internet is “America’s most important platform for economic growth, innovation, competition, free expression and broadband investment and development. “ Yet access to the Internet is not offered as a public service, but rather is controlled by a few giant corporate internet service providers (ISPs).

From its beginning, access to the internet has been open equally to all. This feature is called net neutrality and means that the system doesn’t care whether you’re a giant corporation or a small business, a liberal or a conservative, a billionaire or a minimum wage worker. All are entitled to equal treatment in sending or receiving information.  But the ISPs have proposed that instead of maintaining a single “freeway” for all content, they will create a special fast lane for those who want to speed their content to the public.  ISPs will charge a higher price for use of this express lane.

The best proposal before the FCC is to classify broadband internet as a public utility. Another proposal before the Commission — merely to bar “commercially unreasonable actions” from threatening internet openness — has defects.  The vague “commercially unreasonable” standard risks confusion and abuse because it relies upon discretionary language and therefore does not set a clear boundary against internet blocking.  It also requires a reactionary enforcement approach to regulation of broadband companies in an industry and speech platform where time is of the essence.

Defining Broadband Internet to be a public utility is a better approach. We urge the Commissioner to adopt the reclassification proposal and classify Broadband Internet as a public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act of 1996. This would allow the Commission to set a clearer standard for openness by implementing a “no blocking” rule, and will remove the guesswork from this important regulatory area.

Over the past decade, Oregon’s media landscape has become increasingly consolidated, especially in the television and radio markets. Following a nationwide decline in print media, The Oregonian, formerly Oregon’s main source of print news, recently curtailed its news output.  As the public’s access to truly independent media in the traditional markets continues to shrink, we look to the Internet as the last and most open platform for the free exchange of ideas.

Help save Net Neutrality by submitting your comments to the FCC . Your comments will be most effective if you say how net neutrality affects you personally. Submit your comments by August 31.

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