Net Neutrality Repeal: Are Internet Fast Lanes a Good Thing?

With federal regulators poised to repeal net neutrality rules this week, your internet service provider would be allowed to speed up delivery of some online content to your home or phone.

Whether those fast lanes are coming, and what they ultimately deliver for Americans, is unclear.

The concept, known as paid prioritization, involves a telecommunications company charging an additional fee to transport a video stream or other content at a higher speed through its network.

The fee would most likely come from deals struck with websites such as Netflix willing to pay for a competitive advantage over an online rival. Or the fee could be charged to a company providing services that require reliably fast connections, such as self-driving vehicles or remote health monitoring of people with serious illnesses.

But it's possible consumers could be charged extra if, for example, they want to be able to stream the games of their favorite sports teams without worrying about balky video caused by network congestion.

Supporters of fast lanes say they would encourage the development of innovative new services, as well as investments in expanding and improving wireless and fiber networks that would increase internet access and overall data speeds.

"By ending the outright ban on paid prioritization, we hope to make it easier for consumers to benefit from services that need prioritization -- such as latency-sensitive telemedicine," Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai, who is leading the push to repeal the net neutrality rules, said in a recent speech.

But opponents warned that what they call toll lanes would alter the open nature of the internet, squeezing out start-ups and small companies that lack the money to pay for faster content delivery.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, who voted for the rules and their utility-like oversight in 2015, said in a Times opinion column last month that "your broadband provider...

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