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‘Net Neutrality’ Puts FCC At Center Of Storm

Publication Date: 
May 14, 2014
The Washington Post - Technology
Cecilia Kang

The Washington Post explains Professor Barbara van Schewick's role in discussions of the FCC's net neutrality proposals. 

Silicon Valley once cheered the election of President Obama, comforted by his stance that Internet service providers should be banned from charging Web sites such as Facebook or Netflix for faster access to American homes. And for much of the past six years, tech firms felt shielded from the possibility that the Internet would ever have separate slow and fast lanes for traffic.

But on Thursday, the government is poised to vote on a plan that could make that scenario a reality. Tom Wheeler, a Democratic Obama appointee, is pressing new rules at the Federal Communications Commission that would allow an Internet service provider such as Verizon to charge YouTube, for instance, for higher-quality streaming of videos.


When the federal appeals court overturned the FCC’s first effort, in rules set under Wheeler’s predecessor, to codify net neutrality, Stanford University law professor Barbara van Schewick contacted dozens of high-tech firms in Silicon Valley to explain the ruling.

Van Schewick, who directs Stanford Law School’s Center for Internet and Society, flew multiple times to Washington to discuss the FCC’s plans and returned to the Bay Area to warn companies that they needed to pay more attention. She said the FCC’s proposal for new net-neutrality rules was based on a hodgepodge of legal definitions and warned that Wheeler would allow paid prioritization online.