SEATTLE - On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved new rules meant to protect an 'open Internet,' so as to prevent telecom and network companies from being able to block, slow or prioritize different kinds of online traffic. But the very groups that have pushed for such rules say these don't go nearly far enough to do the job, because they protect only the wired Internet, not fast-growing wireless or mobile networks.
Jonathan Lawson, co-founder of the Seattle-based group Reclaim the Media
, predicts the result will be a two-tiered Internet, where only those who can afford the best access will get it.
"The FCC, unfortunately, has not listened to the people in this case. But it's not over yet. Congress ultimately has oversight over what the FCC does. We certainly are not going to stop pushing the FCC to make these rules more fair, to rural people and to minorities."
Lawson says the new rules do not reflect what FCC commissioners heard in public hearings around the country, including one in Seattle in April. At Tuesday's meeting, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn voiced concerns that the new rules won't provide equal and open access for all Internet users, particularly in rural areas, although she voted for them.
Telecom companies say the rules should not apply to mobile networks, because bandwidth is more limited and they need to be able to manage traffic to provide the best service. But Amalia Deloney, grassroots media policy director for the Center for Media Justice
, believes the companies have a motive other than customer service - that they are reserving the right to charge for different levels of network performance.
"They want to have the ability to be able to charge for as many things as they possibly can, as mobile continues to grow. And that is about making more profit: it is not at all about the bandwidth or the capabilities that exist."
Deloney says hers and other media watchdog groups are disappointed in the significant role that big corporations - including AT&T, Google and Verizon - played in crafting the new rules.
The battle could end up in Congress or in the courts, with challenges planned by corporations and consumer groups.
More on the new rules, including statements from each FCC commissioner, are online at www.fcc.gov