A Federal Communications Commissioner visiting Minneapolis on Thursday said that implementing a policy proposal by Google and Verizon on how the Internet should work in the future would "cannibalize" the Internet.
The proposal by Google and Verizon, released earlier this month, would make room for companies to pursue new and "differentiated" online services.
In an interview with MPR's All Things Considered ahead of a public hearing Thursday evening, FCC Commissioner Michael Copps said the proposal would make his regulatory agency a "totally toothless tiger" and would threaten democracy by creating a fast-lane for content providers willing to pay more.
Below are some excerpts from Tom Crann's interview with Copps, who is one of five FCC commissioners.
On the importance of promoting an open Internet:
"Keeping it open, keeping it dynamic, which has been its success so far, is vitally important. If we allow the Internet to become the province of gatekeepers and toll booth collectors ... we're running a great risk with undermining the potential of this technology to serve the American people. There's not a problem facing this country that doesn't have a broadband Internet solution as part of its solution, whether its energy, creating jobs, controlling the climate, creating equal opportunity, better health care, the list goes on and on."
On the Google-Verizon proposal, which would largely exclude wireless from FCC regulation:
"Everybody is going wireless now. A lot of people are disconnecting the line into the house and they're going for the wireless technology. So they're taking what's going to be really the massive and the mainstream way that people are going to get their broadband and they're saying 'off limits.'"
On what the Google-Verizon proposal would do to Internet service:
"It's creating a two-tiered Internet ... They call this managed services, and (would) run all sorts of different programs on that, which will be directed of course to affluent audiences and services with the most profit-making potential."
On comparing the Internet and the way it's distributed to a customer paying an extra fee to get HBO or Showtime along with their regular cable subscription:
"This is the cannibalization and the cableization and the consolidation of the Internet. We have seen what consolidation has done to traditional media in the United States of America ... We have seen what happens when fewer and fewer mega owners come in and buy all of our broadcast properties: Programming gets homogenized, newsrooms get cut, journalists get fired and investigative journalism is basically right now on the endangered species list the way I see it. That's the road traditional media travel down ... If we allow (the Internet) to be undermined the same way traditional media has been undermined, we do a tremendous disservice to our democracy."