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Economy

Proposed Internet Rules Affect San Diego Consumers

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A San Diego State University lecturer said consumers should be paying attention to the emerging debate over who controls the access to the internet's content.

The issue was revived last week when proposed rules being worked out by federal officials were made public.

Essentially, the Federal Communications Commission is preparing guidelines that would allow internet providers to create a "fast-lane" that is only open to content providers who pay for access.

That could be an advantage for companies that stream large amounts of content over high-speed connections.

The proposal came after an appeals court struck down rules keeping internet companies from slowing the movement of certain data.

Lance Larson, a San Diego State University lecturer, said consumers should be paying attention because the debate will ultimately have an impact on consumer pocketbooks.

"Consumers are watching more video content like Netflix and Hulu and Amazon Prime," Larson said. "And is it really fair to the internet service providers in the question? Should they be allowed to regulate and create that toll road versus the freeway?"

Consumer advocates say the proposed rules might end up being a way for large companies to squeeze out competition.

The argument is that existing companies like Netflix, Google and Facebook have an advantage because they can afford to pay for the high-speed access.

Start-ups might struggle because they lack the money to compete.

Critics also fear the proposed rules would lead to higher prices for video-streaming customers.

The FCC guidelines are just a proposal at this time, but the agency is widely expected to vote on the issue sometime this summer.