Is the Middle of the Road the Way to Go for Net Neutrality?

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Last week the Federal Communications Commission filed a notice of proposed rule making regarding how the agency should proceed regarding net neutrality. The FCC is looking to reinstate net neutrality laws after the current version of the rules was overturned by a D.C. district court in January, but public outcry over the possibility of bigger, richer companies receiving privileged access to the Internet at the detriment of smaller startups has left the FCC feeling uncertain about how to proceed. So it’s asking for input from any and all individuals over the next four months about what it should do next.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has suggested that the rules be changed to allow for Internet service providers to make deals with content providers that would like to pay for faster, better-quality broadband service under “commercially reasonable” terms. This middle-of-the-road-type agreement would allow for ISPs to benefit from market changes by cutting these kinds of deals, but would allow the FCC to closely monitor the agreements to ensure that smaller companies aren’t being treated unfairly.

This proposal, like most compromises, seems to be making no one happy. Advocates for net neutrality believe those laws are needed to keep the Internet a free and open space for everyone so that new companies have the opportunity to blossom. Wheeler himself has said that without net neutrality, the next Google (NASDAQ:GOOG)(NASDAQ:GOOGL) or Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) might never happen. Those companies and others, including Netflix (NASDAQ:NFLX) and Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN), wrote a letter to the FCC earlier this month saying that the FCC’s dedication to the principle of net neutrality is the reason the the Internet has flourished, and allowing those rules to end will hamper the Internet’s economic possibilities.