In a major victory for Internet companies everywhere, the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 along party lines to approve new rules regarding net neutrality today.
“The Internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet. It is simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who championed the new regulations, after the vote.
Specifically, the vote reclassifies fixed and mobile broadband as a telecommunications service and places internet service providers (ISPs) under the same rules that govern telephone services via Title II of the Communications Act. The new regulations ban ISPs from blocking or throttling traffic and require them to disclose their network management practices, which is beneficial for businesses now, considering many if not all businesses rely heavily on the internet and their network, network management software is having to change just as quickly to keep up with data compliance and network security against hackers and cyber threats.
NPR explains further:
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.
The vote brings to a close a highly politicized debate over paid prioritization: the so-called “Internet fast lanes” in which ISPs would be permitted to give preferential treatment to certain websites in exchange for payment. This is something people had worried about when looking to compare connections, such as centurylink vs. xfinity internet to name examples.
The net neutrality issue was contentious enough to inspire more than 4 million people to file official comments with the FCC during its “open comment” period last summer. Somewhat controversially, President Obama took a stand on the issue as well, coming out in support of Wheeler’s proposal.
The actual text of the new regulations won’t be released for another two or three weeks, but a summary detailing the key points is already online. Of course, once the full text is released to the public, lawsuits from broadband providers are sure to follow, a possibility that AT&T has already made very clear.
Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a trade association, was quick to denounce the ruling: “The FCC has taken us in a distressing direction. We must now look to other branches of government for a more balanced resolution,” he said in a statement.
Ars Technica notes that the new rules could also come under congressional fire, with Republicans proposing legislation that would eliminate Title II restrictions for broadband altogether.
According to CNET, FCC officials have said they anticipate such challenges but are confident the rules will stand.
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