NYT to FCC: Reclassify Internet providers

The New York Times is adding its voice to the chorus of companies and organizations calling on regulators to treat Internet providers like the more heavily regulated phone companies.

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In an editorial published in Thursday’s paper, the Times's editorial board warned that a current proposal at the FCC “could soon allow phone and cable companies to block or interfere with Internet content.”

Instead, the agency should choose the “better option” of changing the way it regulates Internet providers like Comcast.

“Small and young businesses will not be able to compete against established companies if they have to pay fees to telephone and cable companies to get content to users in a timely manner,” the board wrote.

The editorial pushed back on a proposal from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler to rewrite the agency’s net neutrality rules, which kept Internet providers from blocking or slowing access to certain websites before they were struck down by a federal court earlier this year.

Earlier this year, Wheeler announced his plans to rewrite the rules, initially focusing on a plan to allow “commercially reasonable” agreements between Internet providers and websites, which critics said could create “fast lanes” for deep-pocketed Internet companies to access users.

After facing backlash, Wheeler expanded his proposal to more seriously consider reclassifying Internet providers as “telecommunications” services, which would give the agency more room to regulate the companies.

In comments last week, President Obama warned that allowing Internet providers to discriminate against certain websites could hurt developing tech companies.

“The position of my administration, as well as, I think, a lot of companies here is, you don’t want to start getting a differentiation in how accessible the Internet is to various user,” Obama said without commenting on Wheeler’s proposal. 

“You want to leave it open so that the next Google or the next Facebook can succeed.”

The New York Times editorial pointed to Obama’s comments last week and during his 2008 campaign.

“Mr. Obama is sending Mr. Wheeler and his fellow commissioners a message,” the board wrote.

“They should pay attention.” 

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