US president Barack Obama is set for a showdown with cable and telecoms providers as federal regulators prepare to introduce new rules banning the use of paid ‘fast lanes’.
Dubbed ‘net neutrality’ the new rules would classify internet provision as a utility in the same fashion as water, electricity and phone services, ensuring that everyone receives an equal service irrespective of their ability to pay.
Disagreements over the principle have emerged amidst the growing popularity of bandwidth heavy services such as Netflix, which benefit disproportionately from the billions of dollars invested by internet service providers in building internet infrastructure.
At issue is whether they should be forced, or allowed, to pay more for the service they receive but the US government has come down on the side of open access, preserving the status quo of equal access for all.
Tim Karr, of internet advocacy group Free Press said: “Net neutrality was built into the DNA of the internet at its inception . . . it protects us from the power of cable companies to control the flow of content and take decisions away from us.”
In response to the new regulatory environment telecoms providers have warned consumers they face increased fees and taxes as costs are passed down the food chain.