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One Internet, Indivisible

The following is an edited excerpt of comments made by Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler at the agency’s May 15 meeting:

I strongly support an open, fast and robust Internet. This agency supports an Open Internet.

There is ONE Internet. Not a fast Internet; not a slow internet. ONE Internet.

The attention being paid to this topic is proof of why the open and free exchange of information must be protected. Thank you to the thousands who have emailed me personally. Thank you to those who felt so strongly about the issue that they camped outside. The Founding Fathers must be looking down and smiling at how the republic they created is practicing the ideals they established.

By releasing this item today, those who have been expressing themselves will now be able to see what we are actually proposing. They have been heard, we look forward to further input and we say thank you.

Today we take another step in what has been a decadelong effort to preserve and protect the Open Internet. Unfortunately, those previous efforts were blocked twice by court challenges by those who sell Internet connections to consumers. Today this agency moves to surmount that opposition and to stand up for consumers and the Open Internet.

This Notice of Proposed Rulemaking starts an important process. Where it ends depends on what we learn during this process. That is why I am grateful for all the attention this topic has received.

We start with the simple, obvious premise: Protecting the Open Internet is important both to consumers and to economic growth. We are dedicated to protecting and preserving an Open Internet.

What we are dealing with today is a proposal, not a final rule. With this Notice we are specifically asking for input on different approaches to accomplish the same goal: an Open Internet.

The potential for there to be some kind of “fast lane” available to only a few has many people concerned. Personally, I don’t like the idea that the Internet could become divided into “haves” and “have nots.” I will work to see that does not happen. In this item we specifically ask whether and how to prevent the kind of paid prioritization that could result in “fast lanes.”

Two weeks ago I told the convention of America’s cable broadband providers something that is worth repeating here. “If someone acts to divide the Internet between ‘haves’ and ‘have nots,’ ” I told the cable industry, “we will use every power at our disposal to stop it.” I will take a backseat to no one that privileging some network users in a manner that squeezes out smaller voices is unacceptable. Today, we have proposed how to stop that from happening, including consideration of the applicability of Title II.

There is only ONE Internet. It must be fast, robust and open. The speed and quality of the connection the consumer purchases must be unaff ected by what content he or she is using.

And there has to be a level playing field of opportunity for new ideas. Small companies and startups must be able to effectively reach consumers with innovative products and services, and they must be protected against harmful conduct by broadband providers. The prospect of a gatekeeper choosing winners and losers on the Internet is unacceptable.