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F.C.C. and Verizon Battle in Court Whether the Internet Should be Free and Open
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Verizon and the Federal Communications Commission kicked it off this week, arguing over whether the internet should be structured to give an advantage to those who pay, or whether it should be free and open to all equally. The F.C.C. is arguing that the internet is the success it is because it offers its products, services, and information equally, and that therefore Internet service providers should keep their pipelines free and open, allowing the creators of legal content – movies, products, medical services – an equal ability to reach consumers as the rest of them. Verizon is arguing that the internet companies have spent billions on making the internet, and that they should therefore be able to sell access to Internet users to those willing to pay the most. This would prevent the next Google or Facebook to get started, the F.C.C. says.

“This will determine whether the laws and regulations of the past — the pre-Internet age — will apply to the Internet’s future,” said Scott Cleland, the chairman of NetCompetition, a group sponsored by broadband companies, including Verizon, as reported by The New York Times. “It will determine the regulatory power and authority of the F.C.C. in the 21st century.”


The proceedings began with a two-hour session of oral arguments that went three times longer than expected. Two of the judges, Judge Laurence H. Silberman and Judge David S. Tatel, seemed skeptical of the F.C.C. that they had the authority to regulate the internet the way they had regulated telephones. Also, the F.C.C disallowed these sorts of telephone regulations a decade ago.

As it is, companies that offer services do not have to pay anything to offer content to consumers. Internet providers may start charging fees to reach more customers, giving companies like Google and Facebook an advantage, the F.C.C. argued. The public, of course, would ultimately pay for the extra costs in goods and services.

The Open Internet Order calls for no blocking and no discrimination. As the proceedings continued, it became apparent, in the opinions of some, that neither side would be satisfied with the sort of compromise the three judges might arrive at, and the matter could go on the the Supreme Court.

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