Black Agenda Radio Commentaries
News, analysis and commentary on the human condition from a black left perspective.
Obama FCC's "Fast Lane" Proposals Spell The End of the Open Internet

The pending “internet fast lane” proposal advanced by President Obama's FCC chairman and telecom lobbyist Tom Wheeler isn't the end of the world, but it is the end of the internet as we know it. The FCC's proposal establishes the legal right of telecom monopolies to apply “market-based” charges for any kind of internet service they choose, for any reason they might invent.

So-called “fast internet lanes” will be given to wealthy corporations like ABC-Disney, CBS-Viacom, NetFlix, HBO, ESPN, YouTube, Amazon, and Facebook, which can afford to pay millions for the privilege of reaching you. Comcast, the biggest backbone owner and internet provider also owns NBC-Universal, including MSNBC, so they and other telecom monopolies will reserve the “fast lane” for their own content as well.

But under the FCC's current proposal, every other kind of internet traffic may be restricted, throttled, subjected to random tolls and extra charges, as long as these are justified by “market logic.” What kinds of internet content will suffer?

  • Broadcast radio stations that stream their content via the internet will have to pay up, or their listeners on the other end will have to pay to receive them;

  • Internet radio of all kinds has never made money, and will pretty much vanish because neither producers nor listeners will be able to pay tolls for lanes “fast” enough to reach or sustain an audience.

  • Vonage, Magik-Jack and other telephone providers whose calls are routed over the internet will have to charge more or be driven out of business;

  • Those discount long distance telephone cards won't be such a discount any more. They too route calls over the internet, and those companies will have to raise prices steeply to pay tolls or go out of business.

  • Small newspapers, journalistic enterprises, small businesses, community voices and blogs of all kinds will also be unable pay “fast lane” tolls and opinions independent of the owners of corporate media will become difficult to publish and hard to find.

  • Artists who sell their work over the internet will be forced to use just a few middlemen, like Amazon and Apple, which will take an even larger rake off the top and will possess nearly complete control over what is available.

  • Greedy telecom companies will finally achieve their dream of being able to charge for “long distance” or “international” email, or to limit the number of emails you can send, forward or receive without additional tolls.

  • Email listserves which send bulk email to customers and interest groups of all kinds might be forced to pay tolls as well.

Before the 60 day comment period on these new rules began on May 15, the FCC had already received more than 3 million pleas from the public NOT to end network neutrality, the technical name for the principle that all content from every provider should be freely available to all comers over the internet. This should have stopped the FCC and the Obama administration in its tracks. But the White House and the FCC are not listening.

It will take a vigorous and sustained public outcry to stop the FCC from turning the internet, originally designed and built by government employees with billions of your tax dollars, into a privatized corporate plantation, much like cable TV.

It's a political question, but not a partisan one. Democrats and Repubicans, omnivores and vegans, libertarians and socialists, anarchists and independents, artists, small businesses and everyone who believes the people's conversation should not be subjected to the whims of the market and monopolists ought to be in motion these next 30 days.

So send an email to before July 15, but also get a half dozen or more of your friends to go down to your local congressman's office. Better yet, call a loud and disrespectful public meeting demanding that the internet be madea public utility, like it is in Taiwan or South Korea. Whatever you do though, do it now, before July 15, before the open internet is history.


For Black Agenda Radio, I'm Bruce Dixon. Find us on the web at, and be sure to subscribe to our free weekly email updates at

Direct download: 20140611_bd_saving-the-internet.mp3
Category:general -- posted at: 1:33pm EDT