Journal of Information & Privacy Law

The End of the Open Internet with Paid Prioritization

By Adam Florek, Editor-in-Chief on Tuesday, May 13th, 2014
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It is undeniable that the Internet has given rise to an unprecedented access of information.  Over the past decade, Internet transmission speeds have skyrocketed and individual users have been given greater latitude in cyberspace.

While these technological leaps have resulted in faster streaming services, such as Netflix and Hulu, better online gaming experiences, and more dynamic social media, they have also lead to greater accessibility to previously obscure resources.  Countless websites provide end users with previously unavailable resources: Wikipedia provides a free and accurate encyclopedia to everyone; SSRN provides scholars a forum for publication; countless newspapers are simultaneously published online; and the list goes on.

Currently the FCC is considering regulations that would allow Internet service providers (ISPs) to provide preferential service to online entities and resellers.  This “paid prioritization” would allow ISPs to limit the speeds at which end users could access web resources that have opted not to pay providers for preferential treatment.

The repercussion of such a tiered Internet are too numerous to list but, undoubtedly many of the free resources that countless individuals rely on would, at the very least, require paid subscriptions to make up for increased costs.  The result would mean limited access to information and services that have opted not to, or are unable to pay, the increased costs, as well as users being funneled to preferred services, effectively controlling the information an individual may be privy to.

The presence of this and similar legislation presents a unique question, what will happen to the internet when service providers can control what information goes online.  On May 15, 2014, the proposal will be put to a vote, in the mean time anyone wishing to voice their opinion should contact the FCC at 1-888-225-5322 (select option 1, 4, & 0).

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