Net Neutrality: What the FCC’s Decision Means for the US
Yesterday, the FCC voted to approve strong rules for net neutrality in a decision that directly challenged the interests of telecom and cable companies as well as Republicans on capitol hill. Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn approved a rule alongside the Chairman Tom Wheeler which called for the reclassification of consumer broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act.
The FCC is intending on using this new authority to ban a practice known as ‘paid prioritization’, where Internet service providers are able to charge content producers a huge premium for giving users greater, more reliable access to their content. These rules will apply universally to mobile access as well.
According to an FCC-released fact sheet, they plan on enforcing these new open Internet rules “through investigation and processing of formal and informal complaints.” (Liebelson, 2015) The amount of control that broadband companies have had over internet service up until this point has been overpowered to say the least. According to Wheeler, “The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules.”(Liebelson, 2015) Prior to their decision internet service providers would essentially be free to block, discriminate, favor or boost service for any user for any reason, or even for no reason at all.
The only two Republican commissioners on the FCC viciously attacked the vote, attempting to make the decision seem weak and blame the President for attempting a flip-flopping maneuver. The audience which was gathered in the room erupted into laughter upon hearing these remarks.
Only months ago, this type of decision seemed like an impossible dream for advocates of net neutrality. Even last fall, Wheeler was reported to have been considering a ‘hybrid approach’ which would have granted major concessions to to cable and telecommunication companies. These companies argue that strong regulations on them will hinder innovation, but greed is the much clearer motive.
Companies such as Google, Tumblr, and other tech start-ups stood with President Obama and millions of Americans in support of net neutrality. Senator Cory Booker (Democrat, New Jersey) called the decision “a landmark day in the history of the internet and a tremendous victory for freedom of ideas, of information, and of expression”. (Liebelson, 2015)
“Popular victories like today’s are so unusual that three Congressional committees are investigating how this happened,” commented David Segal, the executive director of the net neutrality group Demand Progress. “If the net neutrality effort had followed the usual playbook, if Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T had defeated the American people, nobody would be wondering why.” (Liebelson, 2015)
Tags: Congress, Internet, Net Neutrality