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FCC approves ‘Net Neutrality’ rules

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally tackled the long-time Network Neutrality debate, a move that could set the stage for a heated political battle in Washington, D.C. starting in the New Year.
FCC chair Julius Genachowski and two other democratic members voted in favor of Network Neutrality rules – or “Net Neutrality” for short – during the panel’s open meeting on Tuesday, December 21. The regulations would require Internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast and AT&T to treat all web traffic equally, instead of allowing them to decide which sites and applications should upload faster or slower.
“We all have been waiting a very long time for the FCC to take action,” said Chancellar Williams, advocacy manager for the Media and Democracy Coalition, a collaboration of over two-dozen local and national organizations advocating for an open democratic media system.
Advocates and public interest groups put significant pressure on the FCC to take action on the debate over Net Neutrality. Without Net Neutrality, advocates said small businesses, nonprofits, and other organizations won’t be able to afford high-speed services and would lose their ability to reach a mass audience online.
“They (Internet Service Providers) want to discriminate to make money,” said Amalia Deloney, grassroots policy director of the Center for Media Justice, which organized Latinos for Internet Freedom, a new coalition of over 40 national and local organizations representing Latino communities.
For small business owners like Mayo de la Rosa, selling lingerie on the Internet has allowed her company to grow. The Colombian business owner of Cali Caliente has two boutiques in Jackson Heights and one in Astoria, where she sells Colombian jeans for women, lingerie, girdles and underwear for men. She uses the Internet to order the items from Colombia and also depends on sales from customers who order online.
De la Rosa said she already spends more than $300 a month for search engine optimization and $300 a year to host her web site and pay for her domain. She said if Internet service providers start to charge for sites to load faster, while slowing down or blocking others, she will have a hard time keeping up.
“If they make it more expensive, it would be difficult to have a business on the Internet,” said de la Rosa, who lives in Howard Beach.
The United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruled in April that the FCC did not have legal authority to stop Comcast, the nation’s largest cable provider, from blocking its customers’ access to a file-sharing service called BitTorrent. The decision limited the FCC’s power over web traffic under the current law and gave the ability for Internet service companies to block or slow specific sites. For example, they could decide to charge video sites like YouTube to deliver their content faster to users.
“That’s the worst case scenario,” said Scott Holladay, an economics fellow at the Institute for Policy Integrity at New York University. “The likelihood of that happening is very small.”
But recently Level 3 Communications, a central partner in the Netflix online movie service, accused Comcast of charging a fee to deliver Netflix’s streaming movies. Comcast denied the dispute had to do with Net Neutrality, but rather a commercial disagreement.
To send your comments to the FCC, call 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322), email [email protected] or visit www.fcc.gov.
This article was written as part of New York Community Media Alliance’s Ethnic Media Fellowship on Communications Policy and Practice Fall 2010.

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