MoveOn pressures FCC to drop Web ‘fast lanes’

 

Liberal group MoveOn.org is running a TV advertisement in Washington opposing a move to allow companies to create different Internet speeds for various websites.

The new ad comes ahead of the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) meeting on Thursday, where commissioners are scheduled to vote to move forward with the controversial "fast lanes" proposal from Chairman Tom Wheeler.

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The ad begins with a quote from President Obama, who in 2010 said he was a “big believer in net neutrality,” the concept that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.

“Now the FCC might change the rules and let Verizon and Comcast pick winners and losers online,” a narrator says. “Tell the FCC to listen to President Obama.”

The ad is showing this week in Washington, via by a five-figure buy.

The FCC’s contested potential rule would require that Internet service providers maintain a baseline level of service for all websites, but would allow companies to enter into deals to boost speeds for some users. That would make it possible for a company like Google to pay Comcast so that subscribers get quicker access to its sites, for example.

Consumer interest advocates and Democrats have been livid at the proposal.

They say that the move is a retreat from net neutrality and will create a two-tiered Internet: one speed for wealthy corporations that can afford to pay, and another for small companies and nonprofit websites.

Web companies and investors have also opposed the draft rules, which they warn will make it harder for innovative new websites to take hold.

Wheeler, the FCC chairman, has come under increasing pressure to delay Thursday’s vote or back off of his proposal. Activists have delivered thousands of comments opposing the new plan, and are planning a protest on Thursday to coincide with the FCC's meeting.

This week, Wheeler is reportedly softening his proposal to ensure that the fast lane deals do not harm consumers or competition.

The FCC was prompted to write new net neutrality rules earlier this year, when the existing regulations were struck down by a top federal appeals court.