Upcoming FCC Net neutrality rules spark firestorm of protest

Cue the fireworks: Tom Wheeler hints at new FCC Net neutrality rules driven by paid access; plus, strategic planning and 3-D phones -- in Searchlight.

The Federal Communications Commission Net neutrality show will go on. Neither public outcry nor a request for a delay by an FCC commissioner will stop Chairman Tom Wheeler from going forth with his May 15 proposal for new Net neutrality rules, according to his spokeswoman. Current Net neutrality rules -- so-called "First Amendment rights" of the Internet -- state that data packets hosted on the Internet are moved impartially regardless of content, site or platform. A recent blog post by Wheeler left the door ajar for a set of Open Internet guidelines that would give companies access to the equivalent of an Internet E-ZPass lane -- for a pretty penny, no doubt.

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Wheeler will present his proposal before the commission next Thursday, after which the FCC will take a vote to implement the rules immediately or defer to the public for feedback. The big question for CIOs: Is it in your organization's best interest to preserve Net neutrality? Can your IT budget handle paid access to the Internet's "Pass GO" for what will certainly be more than Monopoly money?

Emily McLaughlinEmily McLaughlin

As rumors about Wheeler's paid access proposal spread, individuals, companies and other interest groups voiced their opposition to any agreement that might cause some Internet content to be favored over other content.

According to SearchCIO guest columnist Ravi Ravishanker, "The FCC's new position is based on the premise that it is OK for Internet Service Providers to deliver 'ISP preferred' content to the consumer as long as it is 'commercially reasonable.'" As Ravishanker explained, this Net neutrality rule revision would raise a number of questions about who would determine what is "commercially reasonable" and whether the FCC has the resources to oversee compliance or will impose a penalty for violations. Not to mention the stifling effect preferred treatment could have on the Internet-fueled innovations from startup companies.

If it's any consolation to the little guys, hot shots like Amazon, Facebook and Google oppose Wheeler's proposition to allow broadband companies to charge content providers for access to the fastest lanes. "Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission's rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination and paid prioritization," the trio said in an opposition letter to the FCC. "This commission should take the necessary steps to ensure that the Internet remains an open platform for speech and commerce so that America continues to lead the world in technology markets."

  • Topping the news again this week is none other than beleaguered Target. After last week's long-awaited announcement of a new CIO, CEO Gregg Steinhafel stepped down as chairman and CEO. What can your organization learn from this C-suite overhaul? If IT security isn't a No. 1 corner office concern, a costly data breach -- and rolling heads -- may be looming in your future. Forbes contributor Raj Sabhlok suggested CEOs accept security as their responsibility -- assess risks, monitor everything, limit controls and stay vigilant. It also might help to pay attention when your offshore security team alerts you there is a hack.
  • If your IT strategic plan is driven by productivity gains, is CEO-centric, or is heavy on spinning up proposals and light on experimentation, Harvard Business Review blogger Nick Tasler says you're doomed. Also on HBR, "a simplified version of a methodology for identifying a customers' job-to-be-done that starts with information about your own product."

    Previous Searchlight columns

    Target update: DeRodes chosen as CIO

    Private content reshapes strategies

  • Looking to don a shirt that instantly blends with the surrounding environment? Might want to start saving your pennies now. Thanks to Judit Eszter Karpati, fashion-forward tech geeks will soon be able to channel their inner chameleon with color-changing clothing. Karpati recently shared the Chromosonic research project, which joins the world of digital media with textile art.
  • In 3-D news: People familiar with product development at Amazon.com leaked some top-secret info about a high-end smartphone featuring a screen that allows 3-D images without the use of glasses via retina-tracking technology. Meanwhile at TechCrunch's Disrupt NY 2014, Harvard Business School grad Grace Choi shared her vision for the future of cosmetics with the unveiling of Mink, a 3-D makeup printer that is sure to disrupt the beauty industry.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Emily McLaughlin, associate site editor.

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