Net Neutrality Wins Backing of Nation's Mayors

The Internet is a powerful tool for economic development mayors fear will be dulled by loosely regulated ISPs.

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By Peter Page

Net neutrality and a ban on Internet "fast lanes'' won the backing of the US Conference of Mayors, which unanimously endorsed a resolution Monday urging the Federal Communication Commission forbid "blocking of lawful websites" and "unreasonable discrimination of lawful network traffic.''

"Net neutrality is critical for an innovation economy to thrive, because if the broadband companies could choose what web pages you can access, the Internet would lose its power as the most powerful communication tool we've ever known," said San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, who led the push for the resolution passed at the annual conference of mayors in Dallas.

Related: The Latest FCC Net Neutrality Rules Should Be Opposed

The resolution is timed for the ongoing public comment period for the FCC's revised Open Internet Rule to replace a 2010 rule tossed out, in part, in January by a federal court. The 63-page opinion hardly reads like a ringing victory for internet service providers (ISP), such as Verizon, which brought the suit.

The court majority, which ordered the FCC to prepare a new rule proposal, found "broadband providers represent a threat to Internet openness'' and "nothing in the record gives us any reason to doubt the Commission's determination that broadband providers may be motivated to discriminate against and among edge providers.''

"Edge providers'' are entities, ranging from Amazon and Hulu to web sites hawking T-shirts, that rely on the Internet for marketing and sale of goods and services.

Internet "fast lanes'' boiled into controversy with a public spat between Netflix and Verizon. Netflix publicly blamed Verizon for slow service. Verizon responded with a stern cease-and-desist letter. The dispute spotlighted a deal between Netflix and Verizon to provide faster, more reliable service that to many sounded like a "fast lane.'' The deal was announced in February, following the federal court decision that presciently anticipated such arrangements.

Related: Net Neutrality, Explained

"Broadband providers also have powerful incentives to accept fees from edge providers, either in return for excluding their competitors or for granting them prioritized access to end users,'' wrote the court majority. "Indeed, at oral argument Verizon's counsel announced that "but for [the Open Internet Order] rules we would be exploring those commercial arrangements."

The nation's mayors made clear they view high speed Internet access as an economic development cornerstone.

"We stand for transparency and believe that all data on the Internet should be treated equally, not discriminating or charging differentially by user, content, site, platform, application, type of attached equipment or mode of communication,'' wrote Lee and Mayor Ed Murray of Seattle in an opinion piece published last week. "We feel that innovation relies on a free and open Internet, one that does not allow for individual arrangements for priority treatment, also known as paid prioritization.''

Related: U.S. Court of Appeals Overturns Net Neutrality

Peter Page

Entrepreneur Staff

Senior Editor for Green Entrepreneur

Peter Page's journalism career began in the 1980s in the Emerald Triangle writing about the federally-funded Campaign Against Marijuana Planting. He now writes and edits for Green Entrepreneur.

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