History was made today as the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of changing the rules to keep the Internet open and neutral for all.
Before the vote, Chairman Tom Wheeler said that internet was too important to be without rules and a referee on the field. Wheeler called the conspiracy theory that net neutrality is really a secret plan to regulate the internet, “nonsense.” Wheeler said, “Today is a red letter day for internet freedom.”
The rules passed by the FCC are similar to what President Obama suggested when he announced his support for net neutrality:
The FCC is an independent agency, and ultimately this decision is theirs alone. I believe the FCC should create a new set of rules protecting net neutrality and ensuring that neither the cable company nor the phone company will be able to act as a gatekeeper, restricting what you can do or see online. The rules I am asking for are simple, common-sense steps that reflect the Internet you and I use every day, and that some ISPs already observe.
So the time has come for the FCC to recognize that broadband service is of the same importance and must carry the same obligations as so many of the other vital services do. To do that, I believe the FCC should reclassify consumer broadband service under Title II of the Telecommunications Act — while at the same time forbearing from rate regulation and other provisions less relevant to broadband services. This is a basic acknowledgment of the services ISPs provide to American homes and businesses, and the straightforward obligations necessary to ensure the network works for everyone — not just one or two companies.
By reclassifying internet service provision as a utility, providers are prohibited from blocking, throttling, or using paid prioritization to keep their customers from accessing legal content. The FCC’s action also allows the Commission to respond to consumer complaints about ISPs, “For the first time the Commission would have authority to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action if necessary, if it determines the interconnection activities of ISPs are not just and reasonable, thus allowing it to address issues that may arise in the exchange of traffic between massmarket broadband providers and edge providers.”
The corporate takeover of the internet has been defeated. The Internet Service Providers are going to take the FCC to court over the new rules, but the rules change is a historic moment in the years-long battle to keep the Internet open and neutral for all.
Politically, this is a victory for President Obama and the Democrats who support net neutrality. More importantly, this a victory for every person in the United States who uses the internet.