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Sen. Wyden 'Getting Techy With It,' Takes Reddit Questions On Net Neutrality

OPB | May 13, 2014 3:20 p.m. | Updated: May 14, 2014 8:25 a.m. | Portland

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Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Oregon, showed his techy chops Tuesday surrounding the issue of “net neutrality.”

Wyden and the co-founder of the social media site reddit, Alex Ohanian, invited the public to share their questions surrounding net neutrality, open Internet, the Federal Communications Commission’s possible new rules à la Ask Me Anything — a reddit format in which users receive direct answers to the questions they post.

Wyden writes on reddit that he’s been a “defender of the Open Internet since I had a full head of hair and rugged good looks.”

“The only way to address threats to net neutrality now is with enforceable rules, but in the long run, what would be best for the Internet and best for consumers is more competition. That’s why the currently proposed mergers are so concerning, and why developments like Google Fiber and other build-overs are very important.

“There is a correlation between the lack of competition and the need for the government to intervene in markets to protect competition,” Senator Wyden explained earlier this afternoon in the /r/IAmA thread.

As The Atlantic reports, net neutrality is when any network traffic, like streaming movies, web pages and downloads, can move from one place to another without discrimination — you receive information from Google, Netflix or Disney just as quickly as when you pull up the websites of start up companies.

However, the FCC is considering allowing providers to create Internet “fast lanes” for companies that are willing to pay more. More likely than not, the big brands would dominate the web because they have the money to pay for the faster speeds.

Wyden and other net neutrality advocates argue that those charges would stifle small companies and a free market on the Internet. 

I have called the Internet the shipping lane of the 21st century, in this case, the government is fulfilling its traditional role of keeping those lanes open and toll free,” Wyden said. 

But the FCC argues that Internet service providers like Comcast and Verizon shouldn’t have to shoulder all of the costs for high bandwidth user activities, such as streaming video. 

FCC commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in a statement that the new rules may create “greater online innovations.”

“It clearly shows the federal government understands that technological advances can enable us to depart from traditional regulatory models and adopt new approaches, with lower administrative costs, which could spur even greater innovation from incumbent carriers, and new entrants.”

FCC commissioners plan to vote on net neutrality reforms Thursday, and have said they’d listen to public comment on any approved plan before finalizing it.

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