Small businesses could soon find it harder to compete online unless they’re willing and able to pay extra bucks for faster access to Internet broadband providers.
The Federal Communications Commission was expected to unveil new proposed rules on Thursday that would allow Internet providers such as Comcast, Time Warner Cable and Verizon Communications to give preferential treatment to companies willing to pay for “fast lanes” to send content such as video-streaming or music to their customers, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The FCC would still require such arrangements to be “commercially reasonable," and Internet providers would have to disclose more about how they treat online traffic than they have in the past.
But critics of the FCC’s proposal say the move would effectively kill “net neutrality”—the idea of an open Internet where all traffic is treated equally. Moreover, the rules would disadvantage startups and small businesses trying to compete against large companies that can afford to pay for faster Internet access to their sites.
The New York Times raised alarm bells:
The rules could radically reshape how Internet content is delivered to consumers. For example, if a gaming company cannot afford the fast track to players, customers could lose interest and its product could fail. The rules are also likely to eventually raise prices as the likes of Disney and Netflix pass on to customers whatever they pay for the speedier lanes, which are the digital equivalent of an uncongested car pool lane on a busy freeway.
The new FCC proposal is subject to public commentary and revision and could still be challenged in court, according to NBCNews.com.
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