Life in the slow lane
Because the Internet has become a fundamental feature of modern life, unfettered access to it is crucial to the economy and even democracy.
"Net neutrality" is the idea that Internet service providers can't dictate the speed or volume of traffic to favor their own commercial interests. Neutrality is even more vital as lines blur between the Internet and traditional forms of communication, including print and television.
Neutrality, an open Internet, is threatened by a proposal from Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler, on which the commission is scheduled to vote Thursday.
The FCC had the right idea with neutrality rules that were struck down in January by a federal appeals court. The court did not oppose the idea of net neutrality, but found that the FCC could not impose the rules without first determining that the Internet could be regulated in the manner of a utility.
Though the commission has the authority to make that determination, Mr. Wheeler instead unveiled his hybrid proposal. It includes some features of net neutrality but would create what he calls a "fast lane" for certain content. Internet service providers would be able to set aside broadband capacity, at a price, for content providers who are able and willing to pay. Comcast already has struck such a deal with Netflix.
The commission should not carve out fast lanes for wealthy interests and leave the slow lanes to everyone else. Rather, it should take the necessary steps to ensure true net neutrality.