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Editorial: Cashing in on the Internet

Money talks ... and in the case of the Internet, cash — loads of cash — may also be the end of what is commonly referred to as “net neutrality.”

The Federal Communications Commission recently unveiled its thinking along these lines, reasoning that it would OK if “fast lanes” on the information super highway were allowed. In other words, Internet service providers — companies such as AT&T, Verizon and Time-Warner Cable — could create tiered access, where users would have to pay for priority. If the FCC decides this direction is a good one, the ruling could have an impact not only on what those using broadband might see but also on content providers finances, since they’d be paying more for access, and the public, who would likely see increases in fees.

The 3-2 majority of the board that is leaning toward the change wants to assure everyone that they understand their concerns and will prevent changes that would have a negative impact.

“There is one Internet. It must be fast, it must be robust, and it must be open,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “The prospect of a gatekeeper choosing winners and losers on the Internet is unacceptable.”

But it’s Wheeler whose proposal, would set up a case-by-case basis when it came to an ISP, wanting to charge for fast lane use.

That’s all well and good, as long as FCC thinking isn’t influenced by the politics or lobbying of the day that could result in start-up businesses or those who are in competition in some way with the service provider getting squeezed out.

That’s not the direction in which we want to see the Internet headed.

Like the revolution that the spread of electrical power created, the best that the Internet has to provide shouldn’t be left to the highest bidder. The FCC can define Internet service providers as common carriers and create regulations that ensure that common good is the guide.

That won’t happen, however, if people aren’t willing to let the FCC hear them on this matter. The public comment period is 120 days. You can weigh in at:

openinternet@fcc.gov

or the commission’s comment page at:

http://www.fcc.gov/comments.

As for us, we think this proposal is a bad idea and should be dropped.

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