Last week, you may have noticed the above “wheel of death” at the top of one of your favorite websites, like Reddit or Netflix. The goal of the “Internet Slowdown Day” was to drive visitors to the Federal Communications Commission to comment on the FCC’s proposed rules for net neutrality, though websites did not actually slow down service for users. According to Battle For the Net, over 700,000 comments directed toward the FCC were made as a result of the campaign. However, not all of those opposed to the “fast-lane” approach joined in on the Internet Slowdown campaign, but have still voiced their support for a “free and open Internet.”

In May of this year, the FCC outlined two approaches to ensuring “network neutrality.” The first approach, and the one favored by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, would permit so-called “fast lanes” on the internet, but only if they are “commercially reasonable.” Fast lanes would allow specific internet content to receive preferential treatment in exchange for a fee.  What is “commercially reasonable,” however, remains largely undefined.  The second approach, favored by many net neutrality advocates, enables the FCC to prohibit “paid prioritization.” The FCC was forced to propose these rules after a court ruled in January that the FCC’s previous rules exceed the agency’s legal authority.

As this blog has discussed, opponents have called on the FCC to reclassify cable broadband as a telecommunications service under Title II. A reclassification would put internet service providers in the same regulatory category as entities such as telephone networks. As a result, the FCC could, under Title II authority, ban “unjust” and unreasonable” discrimination.  Scholars disagree as to the feasibleness of the use of Title II, and whether such approach is politically and legally viable. The effectiveness of the Internet Slowdown campaign remains to be seen, though the sheer volume of comments will certainly provide the FCC with plenty to consider before issuing a final rule.

–Rebecca Loegering

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One Response to Internet Slowdown: Websites Protest Proposed Net Neutrality Rules

  1. William Healy says:

    While the FCC and various proponents of both solutions have referred to them as “Net Neutrality,” I am concerned that rules that allow for paid priority would mean that certain content providers would be pushed to the back of the queue. This would inherently not be ‘neutral’ and would erect additional barriers to entry for providers of new content. Traditional and established content providers would be more likely to be able to get paid priority over start-ups and small businesses.