BREAKING: FCC passes net neutrality law; internet now public utility

Chuck Bednar for – @BednarChuck

The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has officially approved a net neutrality law that reclassifies broadband Internet as a Title II public utility.

According to TechCrunch, the measure passed by a 3-2 vote, with the FCC’s two Democratic appointees joining Chairman Tom Wheeler in voting in favor and the two Republican members voting against it.

The website added that the plan underwent a last-minute revision, removing a potential flaw in its formation that the agency was alerted to by Google. That weakness could have allowed some paid prioritization, a tactic used by some ISPs to collect additional fees from companies that use more bandwidth, including video streaming services such as Netflix.

“[The Internet] is our printing press; it is our town square; it is our individual soap box and our shared platform for opportunity,” FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said during today’s open commission meeting, according to Engadget. “That is why open internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.”

Should we still be concerned?

However, Commissioner Ajit Pai said that it was “sad to witness” the FCC replacing Internet freedom with “government control.” Pai added that the FCC only passed the regulations due to the intervention of President Barack Obama, and said that the new plan “is not a solution to a problem.” Rather, the new rules are, themselves, “the problem.”

“No one, whether government or corporate, should control free and open access to the Internet,” said Chairman Wheeler. “The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules.” He added that the new rules are “no more a [secret government] plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech.”

Gizmodo explained that the new rules largely resemble those initially laid out by the White House three months ago, banning paid prioritization and throttling. They do not permit ISPs from blocking websites and giving the FCC the authority to step in when it feels as though companies are not acting in the public interest.

Long road ahead…still

While the government can now regulate the Internet as a public utility, like telephones, it will not give them the ability to determine the price of broadband service. Gizmodo called it “fantastic news… [that] we’ve been waiting years to hear. However, the battle is likely far from over, as companies will likely file legal challenges, and lawmakers could also attempt to intervene.”

“Legal action in response to the new rules is expected. Chairman Wheeler decided to invoke Title II to reclassify broadband service, something that has long been anathema to ISPs,” TechCrunch added. “So, while this vote was important, the life of net neutrality is not yet safe. Congress has agitated against the FCC’s plan in recent weeks.”


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