Verizon introduced a new argument against net neutrality this week, claiming that a lack of “fast lane” services could hurt blind, deaf, and disabled internet users.
According to Mother Jones, Verizon lobbyists on the Hill claimed that without fast lane internet, disabled Americans could be faced with substandard service as web traffic increases and risk missing out on vital technology in emergency situations.
The argument comes as the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) considers a proposal that would end net neutrality, a current regulation that ensures equal treatment of websites by internet service providers (ISPs). If approved, the plan would allow ISPs like Verizon to charge companies for internet service, potentially giving a major advantage to web giants who could afford to pay premium charges for faster-loading websites, videos, and other content.
Reactions from both public and private sectors to the fast lane proposal have been divisive, with big tech companies like Google publicly standing against the plan, while broadband providers like Verizon and AT&T have acted in support of it.
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AT&T senior executive Jim Cicconi described the plan as an attempt to “foster an investment environment... so that all consumers can have the fastest Internet lanes in the world,” while almost 150 tech companies, including Google, Amazon, and Netflix, signed a petition urging the FCC to vote against it, calling paid fast lanes “a threat to the internet.”
In previous years, former Verizon CEO Ivan Seidenberg cited disabled access in a similar argument against net neutrality, claiming that it can prevent companies from quickly transmitting medical data by not allowing them to prioritize those services over spam.
But Verizon’s most recent claim that net neutrality could have negative consequences for disabled users hasn’t been corroborated by the FCC. Commission chairman Tom Wheeler said that even if the fast lane plan is not approved, companies providing special services to disabled users would be able to pay ISPs for speedier service.
Wheeler, a former cable company lobbyist, is a proponent of fast lane services.