No Fast Lanes For The Few

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[Commentary] Just about everybody understands the Internet to be the most opportunity-creating tool of our time. The question now is opportunity for whom? Is the Net going to be the tool of the many that helps us all live better -- or will it be the playground of the privileged few that only widens the many divides that are creating a shamefully stratified and unequal America?

Are we heading toward an online future with fast lanes for the 1% and slow lanes for the 99%?

The first step on the road to an online future that serves us all is for the Federal Communications Commission to get its pending proposals right. Classify broadband for the Title II communications it obviously is and prohibit fast-lane, slow-lane divides created for the commercial enrichment of a few.

At the same time, the Commission must step up to the plate and use the authority it has to preempt state laws that prohibit communities and municipalities from building their own broadband infrastructure instead of relying on Internet service providers (ISPs) that cherry-pick the country when they decide where to build and not build.

And let’s go on from there to demand that the FCC finally finds the wisdom and the guts to say “No!” to all these never-ending mergers and acquisitions that are monopolizing the market, disadvantaging consumers, and short-circuiting our democratic discourse.

But the first step won’t be taken by the Commission unless you take a step first. The FCC needs to hear from you. It plans to make its proposal public on May 15th. Here are some action ideas. Contact the agency now and tell it that you expect a Net-friendly proposal going in. You can also sign the Common Cause petition calling for the Title II reclassification of broadband. Then there will be a period after the formal May 15 launch of the proceeding for the public to comment on it. So you can contact the FCC again after May 15 with comments and suggestions on the handiwork they actually propose and these will become part of the official record of the proceeding.

Don’t leave these things for others for do. It’s up to each and every one of us. You depend more and more on the Net. Now the Net is depending on you.

[Copps served as a commissioner on the Federal Communications Commission from May 2001 to December 2011 and was the FCC's Acting Chairman from January to June 2009]

No Fast Lanes For The Few