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FCC moves in the right direction on Net neutrality

A new proposal would help preserve the open Internet and provide strong consumer protections

Published: February 06, 2015 04:45 PM

The head of the Federal Communications Commission is taking a strong stand in support of a free and open Internet.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler is proposing new rules for Net neutrality, the principle that you should be able to access the websites, apps, and other online content you choose, without your Internet service provider giving preferential treatment to the content it favors, or blocking your access to other sites.

Wheeler’s proposal would allow the FCC to oversee ISPs as common carriers, similar to the way the agency handles traditional phone services, using Title II of a law called the Communications Act. This plan recognizes that Internet providers, like phone companies, offer a critical service that Americans depend on, and the FCC should have rules to ensure we all have open access to the Net.

Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports, thinks the FCC chairman is right: The best way to ensure the Internet remains open and competitive is to reclassify broadband providers as common carriers.

This plan would put standards in place to help prevent companies such as Comcast and Verizon from becoming all-powerful gatekeepers of the Internet. We don’t want a handful of ISPs bullying content providers with pay-to-play deals. Such a situation would hurt consumer choice, pricing, and the diversity of services and views we find online today.

We are especially pleased that these proposed rules would apply not only to wired Internet service (think desktop computer) but also to wireless services (mobile devices such as your smart phone or tablet). As more people use smart phones and other devices to access the Internet, extending these rules to wireless is critical.

Wheeler is now circulating his proposal to fellow FCC commissioners, who are scheduled to vote on the rules Feb, 26. We are anxious to see more details of the plan but are pleased with what we’ve seen so far.

The battle over Net neutrality isn’t over yet. Internet providers are already protesting this proposal, and some members of Congress are pushing Net neutrality bills that could tie the hands of the FCC. We firmly believe tough standards written and enforced by the FCC are essential.

Wheeler’s plan represents a victory in this debate that has churned for more than a decade. The future of the Internet as we know it is up for grabs, and Consumers Union and Consumer Reports will keep fighting to make sure you have the freedom and access you deserve.

This feature is part of a regular series by Consumers Union, the policy and advocacy arm of Consumer Reports. The nonprofit organization advocates for product safety, financial reform, safer food, health reform, and other consumer issues in Washington, D.C., the states, and in the marketplace.

Read other articles in our Policy & Action series.

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