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Bob Moon:Now's your chance to weigh in on the future of the 'net. Today, the Federal Communications Commission took the first steps toward changing the way providers of high-speed Internet services are regulated. The FCC wants to treat them more like phone companies, so they'd have to give all Internet traffic equal access. The agency is opening up public comment on the plan.
Marketplace's Nancy Marshall Genzer takes a look at how it might affect you as a consumer and the broader economy.
Nancy Marshall Genzer:Today, FCC commissioners started the clock ticking for the public to comment on how to regulate Internet service providers -- companies like Verizon and Comcast. The FCC chairman favors this approach: Make Internet providers treat all websites equally.
Wayne CrewsIt's like a perverse policy.
That's Wayne Crews of the libertarian Competitive Enterprise Institute. He says Internet providers should have a right to make deals to automatically route users to certain sites. He says without that extra revenue, they might decide not to upgrade their networks.
Crews: If they look out on the horizon and see that the returns are going to be lower, they may be more reluctant to invest.
Crews says this means that providers may not bother extending high-speed service to rural areas.
FCC commissioner Michael Copps disagrees. He says new regulations will encourage the providers to upgrade, because clear ground rules will remove any uncertainty.
Michael Copps: That doesn't mean they're going to say, "Whoopee, we're delighted you're doing that," because they're not. But I think the companies are going to say, "OK, we can live with this."
Some companies are delighted. Markham Erickson is executive director of the Open Internet Coalition. Its members include Google and eBay. Erickson thinks all websites should be treated equally. He says, if providers were allowed to make deals to route traffic to certain sites, consumers would be frustrated.
Markham Erickson: So, you may want to go to your favorite online book store. But the network operator may have a commercial agreement with a different online bookstore, and they'd rather take you there.
If the FCC does tighten the regulations, Internet service providers will likely go to court.
In Washington, I'm Nancy Marshall Genzer for Marketplace.