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Originally published Sunday, April 27, 2014 at 3:49 PM

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Editorial: No toll booths on the Internet, ensure net neutrality

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has proposed a bad idea in the guise of protecting consumers on the Internet.


Seattle Times Editorial

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OPEN access to the Internet for consumers and innovators of new services is under direct assault by a proposal headed to the Federal Communications Commission.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposes to allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to charge broadband customers more for speedier service.

The ISPs would get to pick and choose between different kinds of content and applications online, and they would lock in the status quo for companies willing to pay, such as Netflix.

Those charges, of course, would be passed on to consumers with no options or alternatives. Innovators with new ideas would be on the outside of a system that has thrived because of uninhibited access and the competition from new ideas.

Wheeler’s proposal, which is on the agenda for the FCC’s scheduled May 15 meeting, could see a vote by the end of the year.

The chairman is trying to spin the idea as a consumer virtue in light of federal courts rebuffing the FCC’s net-neutrality rules twice. The courts did not say net neutrality was bad or inappropriate. The rulings said earlier FCC fiddling with the federal Telecommunications Act of 1996 needed to be revised.

Authority for regulation of the cable and telephone companies as common carriers of Internet service had been shifted from one section of the act to another. The legal solution, the court said, was to move it back.

Setting up toll booths, creating fast lanes, raising prices and letting the existing online giants overshadow others is no improvement for consumers.

As Craig Aaron, president and chief executive of Free Press, a media advocacy group, noted in a statement: “This is not Net Neutrality. It’s an insult to those who care about preserving the open Internet to pretend otherwise.”

Editorial board members are editorial page editor Kate Riley, Frank A. Blethen, Ryan Blethen, Sharon Pian Chan, Lance Dickie, Jonathan Martin, Erik Smith, Thanh Tan, William K. Blethen (emeritus) and Robert C. Blethen (emeritus).



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