Although the FCC has lately voted in favor of allowing network providers the ability to create fast lanes to Internet access, it has been causing a controversy among law makers and tech companies due to the net neutrality principle it may tarnish.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler defended his network neutrality plan, which includes the vote and potential fast lanes approach, in front of the House committee that oversees the FCC. However, democratic representatives on a communications and technology subcommittee urged him to draft a stronger network neutrality proposal that bans Internet fast lanes.
Wheeler reiterated that he did not want to ban fast lanes altogether. Instead, he wants such deals to be dealt at a case-by-case basis. Here is how he was pressed to answer whether he is in favor of fast lanes or not by US Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA):
"Eshoo: 'As a policy, not as a legal question, do you think that paid prioritization should be blocked outright?'
Wheeler: 'So I have said that I don't believe there ought to be haves and have-nots...'"
When it comes to net neutrality and fast lanes, lawmakers do not want ISPs to be able to have preferential treatment for companies that can pay more for better bandwidth or access. Wheeler and the FCC seem to be going in circles and avoiding the issue whether these fast lanes should be outlawed or allowed.
"We have asked that question [whether fast lanes should be banned] in the rulemaking and what I have said is that I believe under Section 706 anything that is anti-competitive or anti-consumer is competitively unreasonable and therefore can and should be blocked," he says. "And that becomes the trigger for how you deal with paid prioritization."
The fear is that a company like Netflix could reach an exclusive deal with a provider such as Comcast and it will give it comparative advantage over other streaming services. Thus, consumers will be paying Netflix's premium price on the fast lane coverage in the end anyway. However, there are always two sides to the coin, and it seems Wheeler does not want to rule out any option yet.
The fear is that a company like Netflix could reach an exclusive deal with an ISP, such as Comcast, and gain comparative advantage over its streaming competitors. Thus, consumers may end up actually paying for Netflix's premium prices and broadband fast lanes in the end, rather than the competitive market. However, there are always two sides to an issue and it seems Wheeler does not want to rule out benefits or reasons why fast lanes should exist.
The main complaint for both republicans and democrats against this is that it goes against everything free Internet and net neutrality stands for. It can prevent the next Google or Amazon from making its presence felt or forming rather than being stopped at its tracks by slow broadband capabilities and being outcompeted by bigger companies due to fast lanes existing.