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Next Threat to Internet: Fast Lanes for Some?
September 16, 2013- Tom Joseph
HARRISBURG, Pa. - A federal appeals court has heard arguments from Verizon, which would benefit if it and other Internet service providers could start charging fees to content providers to reach some customers through faster speeds. This idea of an Internet "fast lane" would create an uneven playing field, in the eyes of the FCC, which says established, deep-pockets companies such as Facebook and Google would have an edge over small startups. That could prevent the next Google or Facebook from succeeding.

Jennifer Yeh, policy counsel for the advocacy group Free Press, was in the courtroom and said the three-judge panel could do away with what's called the Open Internet Order.

"It prevents content providers from paying for priority access to get to users," Yeh described that order. "It prevents a tiered system of superhighways for the rich and slow-speed ways for the poor."

If this case results in the FCC losing some of its regulatory authority over the Internet, amalia deloney, policy director with the Center for Media Justice, said it could lead to voices of dissent and the disenfranchised being blocked from the Web.

"We need to be able to have groups like Iraq Veterans Against the War be able to express their anti-war views within the current debate between the president and Congress on Syria," deloney declared.

Jennifer Yeh said it isn't hard to imagine what would happen if Internet service providers were freed from the FCC's current oversight.

"There will be no government oversight of our communications network, and corporations will retain control over what content we see, how much we pay for that content," she warned. "In other words, our Internet will start to look a lot more like our cable system."

Critics also say added costs would be passed on to consumers. The case could be decided late this year or early next.Most observers felt that, by their questioning, two of the three judges leaned toward freeing Verizon from some of the control the FCC has over it.

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