FOR THE WEEK OF JUNE 20, 2016
‘Net neutrality’ court decision bars ‘fast lanes’ and ‘slow lanes’ for different web content
Look for an example of internet content that shows why it's seen as an everyday basic, not a luxury.
Read another article about technology or electronics and list two facts.
Find a different issue being debated in Washington. Summarize a main point by each side.
Good news for web users (virtually everyone, in other words): A federal appeals court agrees with the government that broadband internet connections are as essential as phone and electric service. That means high-speed online service must be available fully and equally to all Americans, rather than being classified as an optional luxury not needing close federal supervision to protect the public. The judges' 2-1 ruling in the District of Columbia is a sweeping, long-awaited victory for advocates of what's called "net neutrality."
The decision "clears the way for more rigorous policing of broadband providers and greater protections for web users," says coverage in The New York Times. It levels the field for internet start-ups and other small businesses by keeping Amazon or Netflix, for instance, from paying broadband companies for faster delivery of their content. On the losing side are cable companies, telecommunications firms and wireless internet providers that sued to overturn Federal Communications Commission (FCC) regulations they say exceeded the agency’s authority and hurt their businesses. An appeal to the Supreme Court is likely.
The two judges siding with the FCC say in a 184-page opinion that the internet is an essential communications and information tool that "as transformed nearly every aspect of our lives." The federal agency argued that it needs power to bar providers such as Comcast, Verizon, AT&T and Time Warner from offering fast and slow "lanes" by charging extra for speedy access to services such as Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, virtual reality content or multi-player games. That means a company sending high-definition films -- which use a lot of data bits -- can't be charged more or discriminated against by service providers if the new decision survives a possible appeal to the country's top court.
FCC chairman says: "After a decade of debate and legal battles, today's ruling affirms the commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible internet protections — both on fixed and mobile networks — that will ensure the internet remains open, now and in the future." -- Tom Wheeler
Opponent says: "We have always expected this issue to be decided by the Supreme Court and we look forward to participating in that appeal." David McAtee II, AT&T’s top attorney
Consumer advocate says: "This is an enormous win. It ensures the right to an open internet with no gatekeepers." -- Gene Kimmelman, president of Public Knowledge, a nonprofit group in Washington, D.C.
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