Michael Stipe must be losing his religion right about now. Music fans might want to perk up their ears, too. The Federal Communications Commission met today on a plan that could overhaul the online experience, and the commissioners voted by a three-two margin to move the proposal forward. The decision has been hotly anticipated, with critics warning it could harm the idea of an open Internet and undermine net neutrality, the concept that Internet service providers shouldn’t be able to restrict how the rest of use the service.
The plan now out for public comment essentially matches what music advocacy groups, technology companies, and lawmakers from both parties have criticized since it was first reported in April. As The Washington Post reports, the proposal would allow cable and telephone companies to charge extra fees to websites and streaming providers for higher-quality access to Internet users. The Democratic commissioners, including the chairman, Tom Wheeler, voted for the measure; the panel’s Republicans opposed it.
On May 14, Future of Music Coalition and Free Press unveiled a letter opposing the FCC’s plan, with signatures from Stipe, Eddie Vedder, Jeff Mangum, Fugazi, tUnE-yArDs, Neko Case, and many others. On May 5, the American Association of Independent Music, which represents many familiar indie labels, also warned against the proposal. A2IM contended that creating fast and slow lanes for Internet use would make it harder for the labels to connect with fans, a direct dialogue that has been one of the Internet’s greatest boons for music. Read more.