In December, fellow GenYize blogger, Heberto Limas-Villers detailed the many reasons why millennials should take a stand in favor of net neutrality. Today, FCC Chair Tom Wheeler announced his plan to regulate the internet as a public utility and for the the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC.

In an op-ed in Wired, Wheeler said,

Using this authority, I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.

This announcement by Wheeler is a huge win for net neutrality advocates, especially considering Wheeler’s new plan would also apply to mobile data services as well.

Wheeler’s new proposal is in stark contrast to his previous plan to regulate the internet, which he announced last May. His previous plan would have paved the way for a two-tiered internet, greatly benefiting his previous employers, the cable and wireless companies, whom he represented as a lobbyist for 25 years. Under his previous proposal, internet service providers would be allowed to charge fees for the use of internet “fast lanes”, while those unable to pay would be relegated to an internet “slow lane.” This plan would also do little to nothing to stop the throttling of internet speeds.

According to Free Press, an organization which advocates in support of net neutrality, Wheeler’s previous plan would have destroyed the open Internet as we know it. It would have also allowed Internet service providers to charge users more and make it easier for companies to censor speech.

Without Net Neutrality, ISPs would be able to devise new schemes to charge users more for access and services, making it harder for us to communicate online — and easier for companies to censor our speech. The Internet could come to resemble cable TV, where gatekeepers exert control over where you go and what you see.

Without Net Neutrality, ISPs would be able to block content and speech they don’t like, reject apps that compete with their own offerings, and prioritize Web traffic (reserving the fastest loading speeds for the highest bidders and sticking everyone else with the slowest).

Looking back now, it is evident that Wheeler had not expected the amount backlash he faced on this issue, which united progressive activists and corporations. Among those opposing Wheeler’s previous plan included numerous tech companies, including Facebook, Google and Twitter.  Nearly 150 tech companies banded together and sent a letter to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), calling for more stringent net neutrality regulations on broadband providers. The letter asked the FCC to reconsider their proposal which many speculated would allow for Internet providers to charge for faster internet.

Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, 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 rules should provide certainty to all market participants and keep the costs of regulation low.

Such rules are essential for the future of the Internet. This Commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce so that America continues to lead the world in technology markets.

Wheeler also found opposition from people outraged over what had been proposed. On his HBO show, Last Week Tonight, host John Oliver detailed the negative consequences Wheeler’s plan would have and encouraged his viewers to leave their comments on the FCC website. This call-to-action led to thousands posting their frustrations about Wheeler’s proposal and was even blamed for crashing the FCC’s website from the surge in traffic. To date, the thirteen minute YouTube video of Oliver’s plea to viewers has been viewed nearly eight million times.

The FCC is expected to vote on Wheeler's latest proposal at the end of the month. It will be interesting to see where we go from here but one thing is for certain, Wheeler heard neutrality advocates loud and clear.

AuthorKyle McCarthy