USA Today: ‘Net neutrality’ is no government takeover: Our view

The Internet has produced some of history’s most innovative, agile and disruptive companies. Goliaths such as Apple, Google, Amazon, Netflix and Facebook — as well as myriad start-ups — have overhauled the economy and changed the way people lead their lives and conduct their business.

But the Internet has long been in danger of being co-opted by its least competitive and innovative part: its service providers.

To varying degrees these ISPs, such as Verizon and Comcast, have looked at the spectacular success of Silicon Valley and decided that they should get a cut of the action. So it’s great news that the Federal Communications Commission, after years of delay, is set to stop this from happening.

In a column published last week in Wired, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cable and wireless industries, said he would propose rigorous “net neutrality” rules that would restrain his former clients. A vote is set for later this month, and Wheeler’s plan appears to have sufficient support to pass.

Net neutrality bars service providers from creating “fast lanes” for content companies that pay, or “slow lanes” for those that won’t. This would prevent an ISP from forcing itself into partnerships with its richer high-tech brethren. It would also keep high-tech companies from using their clout to beat back emerging competitors. The most immediate effect would likely be an end to a deal that Netflix signed with Comcast for faster service.

For consumers, net neutrality would ensure that the Internet isn’t transformed from an open platform into a marketplace where people are steered to content that costs money. It might also mean lower costs, as anything content providers pay to ISPs is likely to be passed on to consumers.

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