The battle for net neutrality may be over.
On Feb. 26, Federal Communications Commission voted to approve net neutrality rules despite months of strong opposition from Republicans and telecom and cable companies.
Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn joined forces to reclassify consumer broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act.
Net neutrality holds that all Internet traffic, whether it's a personal blog or video streaming service Netflix, should be treated equally. By voting to make the Internet a utility, telecom companies are not allowed to make individuals and businesses pay more to access an “Internet fast lane.” Had telecom companies been able to create a premium service, they also could have blocked lawful content and services.
FCC plans to ban this "paid prioritization” now that the Internet has been classified as a utility.
The agency plans to enforce their rules through "investigation and processing of formal and informal complaints,” allowing it to address issues like the connection between Internet service providers and the rest of the Internet.
"The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules," Wheeler said before the vote, reported The Huffington Post.
Without this vote affirming net neutrality, Clyburn said ISPs would be "free to block, throttle, favor or discriminate ... for any user, for any reason, or for no reason at all.”
FCC’s two Republican commissioners disagreed with the ruling. Commissioner Ajit Pai said, "We are flip-flopping for one reason and one reason only: President (Barack) Obama told us to do so.” His remarks were met with gasps and laughter.
Obama has voiced his support Title II and disagreed with Wheeler’s earlier proposition of “hybrid model.” Tech giants and startups alike support net neutrality, but telecommunication companies, including Verizon, decried the decision.
“(Making the internet a utility) is a radical step that presages a time of uncertainty for consumers, innovators and investors," said Michael E. Glover, Verizon senior vice president, in a statement. He said FCC, "Chose to use this order as an excuse to adopt 300-plus pages of broad and open-ended regulatory arcana that will have unintended negative consequences for consumers and various parts of the Internet ecosystem for years to come.”
Barbra van Schewick, a net neutrality expert and law professor at Stanford University, believes the FCC’s ruling will survive even if it is challenged in court.
Wheeler said FCC will not regulate the Internet. "This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept.”
Source: The Huffington Post
Image via Electronic Frontier Foundation/Wikimedia Commons