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FCC votes for net neutrality rules

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Kai Ryssdal: Today the Federal Communications Commission voted to stop Internet service providers, like Verizon and AT&T, from picking favorites on the Web. The buzzword here is “net neutrality.” Marketplace’s Steve Henn explains.

STEVE HENN: Last year, Comcast slowed down some types of streaming video files traveling on its network. That made it tough for customers to watch things like PBS and Showtime online.

MARKHAM ERICSON: What was troubling for consumers was that some of that programming competed with Comcast’s own cable programming.

Markham Ericson runs the Open Internet Coalition. He represents firms like Skype and Google that favor the FCC’s new proposed rules. They’d force Internet service providers to treat all Web traffic equally. Without these rules Ericson worries telecoms could restrict consumers choices.

ERICSON: What the cable and telephone companies are interested in is turning the Internet into something that’s more akin to cable television.

Ericson argues right now there is little to stop AT&T from slowing down Web traffic to a competitor like Skype — the online phone service. Nothing prevents Comcast or Time Warner from crushing video streaming companies like Hulu.

But John Banks at U.S. Telecom begs to differ.

JOHN Banks: AT&T Verizon, whoever you want to name, isn’t doing it now. And the reason they’re not doing it now is in my view because consumers don’t want that. Consumers want to be able to go places and use new applications.

Banks says telecoms need to be allowed to manage networks and this has nothing to do with playing favorites.

BANKS: Internet traffic growth is exploding, and it has been for years.

Banks says telecoms need to direct traffic or there could be tie-ups. He’s worried the proposed rules could get in the way. The FCC’s final rules are expected this summer.

In Washington, I’m Steve Henn for Marketplace.

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