The Federal Communications Commission is facing resistance over proposed net neutrality rules that would allow companies to pay broadband providers to make certain sites and content faster.
On Nov. 10 President Obama announced his support for regulating broadband like a public utility. Such a move would give the FCC greater regulatory power over broadband than it currently has, and would allow it to more easily draft and implement net neutrality regulations.
An analysis by the nonpartisan Sunlight Foundation on Dec. 16 found that form letters from a single anti-net neutrality group accounted for 56.5% of the comments in the second round of public input. Overall, 60% of comments were anti-net neutrality and 88% were form letters written by organized campaigns.
The Sunlight Foundation reported on Dec. 17 a difference of over 1.1 million comments between what the FCC said it received and what it released to the public. The agency confirmed a "discrepancy" and is investigating. The FCC received more than 3.9 million public comments through Oct. 22, by far the most it ever received.
"Ever since the Internet was created it's been organized around basic principles of openness, fairness, and freedom. There are no gatekeepers deciding which sites you get to access, and there are no toll roads on the information superhighway. [These principles] have unleashed the power of the Internet and given innovators the chance to thrive."
President Obama said that abandoning principles of openness would "threaten to end the Internet as we know it." The president also urged the FCC to prohibit what's known as paid prioritization deals, in which content providers pay for direct access to an ISP in order to ensure smooth content delivery.
A Progressive Policy Institute study released in Dec. 2014 suggests that consumers could end up paying an extra $84 per year in fees if broadband providers are regulated like public utilities. This is because broadband providers could be forced to contribute to state and federal programs that seek to ensure access to telecommunication services.
The FCC, which voted May 15 to move forward with formulating new net neutrality rules, is taking its time formulating these rules because "the big dogs are going to sue," Chairman Tom Wheeler said Nov. 21. Wheeler added that final net neutrality rules will not likely be announced until 2015.
Opponents fear the proposed net neutrality rules would allow broadband providers to make deals with large companies -- such as streaming video providers, mobile messaging providers, and online video game producers, among others -- for faster access to subscribers at the expense of newer, smaller companies.
The FCC first implemented net neutrality rules in late 2010, but it was quickly sued by Verizon to prevent their imposition. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 14 that the agency did not have the regulatory authority to implement net neutrality rules as they were then written.