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FCC targets Internet for oversight

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Steve Chiotakis: Today, federal technology regulators are expected to announce a plan that could reshape the way the Internet is operated. Right now, phone companies get tighter regulation from the feds than Internet providers. But the Federal Communications Commission has a plan to treat them equally. Marketplace’s Brett Neely is with us live in our Washington studio. Good morning, Brett.

Brett Neely: Good morning, Steve.

Chiotakis: So translate this for me, what is the news today?

Neely: Well the FCC wants more oversight over Internet carriers. A few months ago, the agency announced a plan to improve Internet access for Americans. It turns out compared to other countries, our Internet is slower and more expensive. So regulators think they can change that and make the markets more competitive if they have more power. The industry hates this plan and says it’ll hurt their ability to make multibillion-dollar investments in their networks.

Chiotakis: Now why does the industry hate the plan? What’s it going to do to them?

Neely: Right now, big Internet service providers like Comcast and AT&T don’t have to provide equal access to their networks. Say I run an online video service and I use a lot of data. Under the current rules, Comcast or AT&T can slow down my service if they want. They may do it because the data clogs their network or because they have a rival online video service. Companies like Google have complained about this and the FCC tried to block Comcast from exactly that practice. But a federal court sided with Comcast last month. So today, the FCC will try a new approach to getting the power it needs.

Chiotakis: So does this mean, Brett, that my slow Internet service is going to get better anytime soon?

Neely: Hahaha, this is Washington we’re talking about. It’s going to be months before the FCC passes this. Then the courts will probably get involved, so add a few more years there. Hate to break it to you, Steve, but if you hate your service, it’s not getting better anytime soon.

Chiotakis: Well I’ll just keep waiting. All right, Marketplace’s Brett Neely reporting from Washington. Brett, thanks.

Neely: Thank you.

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