Failure to establish net-neutrality rules, Johnson said, would put consumers–including colleges and universities–at “the mercy of a small number of companies.”

“Those companies would have control of a utility that we all need,” he said. “We need this to really protect consumers from price gouging.”

Michael Copps, a Democratic FCC commissioner, said that not every telecommunications company would charge exorbitant fees for web access if net-neutrality rules weren’t passed, but some corporations would take advantage of the lack of regulation.

“I’m not into riverboat gambles that everything will be fine if we just look the other way,” Copps said.  “The potential power of this technology is awesome. It can do so much good. Misused, it can fail itself and fail us all. … All of us have an historic obligation to maintain the freedom of the net.”

Wendy Wigen, a government relations officer for higher-education technology advocate EDUCAUSE, said failure to pass net-neutrality regulations would mean the country’s largest universities could pay telecommunications companies for preferential treatment, while small community colleges without similar financial means would be at a distinct disadvantage.

“[Colleges] could pay to be in the [internet] fast lane,” Wigen said. “These managed services would take over what we think of as the public internet. … The idea that our content would be discriminated against is disturbing, to say the least. We don’t want whoever pays the most [to get] the best treatment.”

A group of more than 20 open internet and consumer advocacy organizations sent a letter to Genachowski Oct. 21 that said more than 1.6 million Americans have declared their support for net-neutrality laws.

“They do not want the internet to become just another closed network where large media entities pick winners and losers, like broadcasting and cable,” the letter said.

The letter decried telecom companies’ “vague predictions of doom” that have surfaced as the FCC moves closer to establishing a set of net-neutrality rules.

“This outcry over a proposal the public has yet to see is clearly intended to halt the dialogue over the proper rules of the road for an open internet before it even starts,” the letter said.

Opponents of the FCC’s plans said net neutrality would restrict broadband internet access and make it less affordable. Favoring neutrality over speed and reliability, opponents argued, would hinder the growth of American telecommunications.

“Giant chunks of radio spectrum that could be used to deliver internet access to consumers remain tied up due to legacy rules,” Ryan Radia, a policy analyst for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said in a statement. “Aggressive liberalization of the airwaves will be essential to promoting consumer welfare and stimulating broadband competition.”

Radia said adoption of net-neutrality rules could mean broadband providers would have to “get permission” from the FCC to “manager their networks.”

“Empowering government to dictate network management would make the internet vulnerable to political manipulation and enable narrow fringe constituencies to wield destructive power over private networks,” he said.

Genachowski said federal regulators were “going to codify the rules of the road” with net-neutrality principals, adding that internet providers wouldn’t be required to alert the FCC before making business decisions.

“We’re not going to require anyone to come to the FCC and ask permission,” Genachowski said after the Oct. 22 vote, according to the FCC’s blog.

Links:

FCC’s OpenInternet.gov

Competitive Enterprise Institute

New Media Consortium


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