Industry officials have argued that companies like Netflix should bear the brunt of the heavy content that passes through their sites after the US Federal Communications Commission received a record number of comments on the thorny issue of net neutrality.
Consumers submitted 3.7 million comments on the subject of “paid prioritisation” and the number was over double the previous high complaint volume following Janet Jackson’s infamous wardrobe malfunction at the 2004 Super Bowl.
“If Comcast and Time Warner – who already have a virtual monopoly on Internet service – have the ability to manage and manipulate Internet speeds and access to benefit their own bottom line, they will be able to filter content and alter the user experience,” said Barbara Ann Luttrell, 26, of Atlanta, in a recent comment to the FCC, according to the AP.
The FCC is looking at the controversial plan to end “net neutrality” and allow content providers, such as Verizon, Comcast, Time Warner and AT&T, among others, to charge companies such as Netflix for the heavy volumes of usage.
Tom Wheeler, chairman of the FCC and a former lobbyist for the industry, has said that financial settlements between broadband operators and content sites could be permitted although the agreement must be “commercially reasonable”. Providers would also have to detail publicly how they set priorities on certain traffic.
On the other side of the argument, industry officials and lobbyists have stated the idea that content would be blocked has the potential to damage the industry yet it thinks that certain services, like Netflix, should be made to pay for heavy traffic.
“Why should everyone subsidize fans of House of Cards?” asked Michael Powell of the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, referring to the Netflix exclusive show.
A debate was called after the FCC was forced to look back at its rules on net neutrality after a court case in January stated that ISPs would be allowed to charge more to companies that use a lot of bandwidth.
The FCC will now review every one of the submissions and there is no deadline for any new rules to be passed meaning this could drag on for even longer for both sides.