The Federal Communications Commission finally voted yesterday on the much-discussed “net neutrality” rules. The commission voted in favor of the new rules with a 3 to 2 vote along party lines, with Democrats in favor.
Broadband Internet will now be regulated like other public utilities, such as telephone service, under the new legislation. The FCC recently redefined what qualifies as broadband.
Now, the objective of the latest rules is to prevent web content, such as streaming videos and other data-heavy media, from being blocked, or load speeds manipulated, based on a user’s Internet provider. Supporters of net neutrality claim the Internet was increasingly being divided into fast lanes, for large providers like Comcast and Verizon that can afford to pay more, and slow lanes for smaller providers.
The division, supporters said, was not only bad for new business but also bad for customers. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler agreed, saying his organization was employing “all the tools in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers” and uphold the Internet’s role as a “core of free expression and democratic principles.” Wheeler went on to say that access to the Internet is too important for society to allow service providers to make the rules.
Republicans, however, say the new rules are a classic case of government overreach. An article by David Asman of FOX News said, “Of all the government interventions by the Obama administration, the plan released Thursday by the Federal Communications Commission to regulate the Internet is the worst.”
Republican Commissioner Ajit Pai said the new FCC plan is “a massive shift in favor of government control of the Internet…everything from your wireless service plan, to your wire line connection at home.”
Beyond just affecting service, the new rules also give the FCC the power to decide what content on the Internet is “just and reasonable” and what is classified as a “threat.” It’s unclear exactly how these new powers will play out, but many are concerned that a new era of censorship is being ushered in.
Private companies are divided, depending on where interests lie. Large providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint are strongly opposed and may file suit against the FCC. Other companies like Netflix and Twitter have pushed for net neutrality to pass.
The FCC has previously appeared to play favorites with private companies. The commission allowed DISH Network Corp. to receive millions of dollars in taxpayer funds that were supposed to be reserved to help small companies compete with large corporations like DISH.