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.
"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 these 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.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler immediately thanked President Obama, saying he, too, believes "that the Internet must remain an open platform for free expression, innovation, and economic growth." Wheeler said the FCC would continue to "receive input from all stakeholders" while it drafts net neutrality regulations.
AT&T said Nov. 12 it would stop expanding its gigabit broadband network until net neutrality rules were finalized. The company previously announced plans to bring the gigabit network (which is currently available in Austin) to cities like Chicago and St. Louis.
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" regardless of what it comes up with, Chairman Wheeler said Nov. 21. Wheeler added that final net neutrality rules will not likely be announced until 2015.
More than 3.9 million public comments regarding the FCC's net neutrality rules were submitted through Oct. 22. The previous record for public comments was 1.4 million regarding Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" at the 2004 Super Bowl.
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.
Verizon is now funding a technology news website called SugarString.com that will not be allowed to report on net neutrality. The reporting restriction was first reported Oct. 28 by The Daily Dot.