The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday approved a new set of rules supporting net neutrality. The regulations, which classify broadband Internet service as a public utility, passed on a party-line 3-2 vote.
According to NPR, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said the new policy will ensure “that no one – whether government or corporate – should control free open access to the Internet.”
The new rules are meant to prohibit the Internet from becoming “pay to play,” with fast lanes for Internet service providers and other big media companies and slow lanes for everyone else.
Republican Commissioners Michael O’Rielly and Ajut Pai cast the dissenting votes, declaring that the FCC is overstepping its authority. Pai said the regulations are unnecessary, effectively deterring innovation and investments by businesses, The New York Times reports.
“The Internet is not broken,” Mr. Pai said. “There is no problem to solve.”
Net neutrality proponents praised the FCC’s decision. ACLU legislative counsel Gabe Rottman said:
This is a victory for free speech, plain and simple. Americans use the Internet not just to work and play, but to discuss politics and learn about the world around them. The FCC has a critical role to play in protecting citizens’ ability to see what they want and say what they want online, without interference.
This new set of rules is more than a year in the making. NPR said:
The new policy would replace a prior version adopted in 2010 — but that was put on hold following a legal challenge by Verizon. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled last year that the FCC did not have sufficient regulatory power over broadband.
After that ruling, the FCC looked at ways to reclassify broadband to gain broader regulatory powers. It will now treat Internet service providers as carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which regulates services as public utilities.
It’s likely that this new set of rules will end up in the courtroom (again), challenged by cable television and telecommunications companies, who are now subject to stronger regulations.
Until then, I’m going to celebrate the FCC’s decision as a victory for open Internet. Net neutrality is important. Here’s what you should know.
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