The U.S. Federal Communications Commission may have
jeopardised prospects for “net neutrality,” a principle requiring
non-discrimination by Internet service providers between their client
websites, when it voted in favour of a proposal to allow ISPs to charge
higher fees to those who seek to deliver higher-quality content in the U.S.
Effectively giving a green light for plans to create
Internet “fast lanes,” with paid priority accorded to relatively
deep-pocketed service providers such as NetFlix and YouTube, the FCC passed
the proposal by a 3-2 vote among its commissioners, along party lines.
While the vote does not signal a final outcome in the
deliberations on preserving net neutrality, and the public will now be
allowed to comment on the proposal before a final ruling is enacted later
this year, the decision flies in the face of intensifying protest by 100 top
tech companies including Google, Facebook, Twitter and Amazon.
Their concern is that smaller companies that are unable
to pay for high-speed data delivery may face “additional obstacles against
bigger rivals,” and the higher prices charged by these websites to overcome
these barriers could get passed on to individual consumers.