The words “Net neutrality” may bore you to tears, but the concept they represent forms the backbone of our modern Internet culture. Net neutrality is the reason we have companies like Google, AOL, and Netflix. It’s also the reason we have incredibly innovative apps and services on the Web.
In the past few years, the powerful companies that run the Internet have challenged Net neutrality by allowing some content creators to pay a premium for prioritized access and other perks. They claim the money creates an incentive to invest in faster infrastructure; Net neutrality advocates claim it endangers the open Internet we’ve always known up until now.
Updated on 05-01-2015 by Malarie Gokey: Added U.S. telecoms’ attempts to block key parts of the Net neutrality rules. Go to page five for all the info.
After much ado, the FCC finally voted on the issue of Net neutrality on February 26, passing chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposal in a 3-2 vote. Both of the agency’s Democratic Commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn voted alongside Wheeler to approve the proposal which will reclassify broadband as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act, among other things. The full text of the ruling is now available on the FCC’s website.
“The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules.”
“Today, the Commission — once and for all — enacts strong, sustainable rules, grounded in multiple sources of legal authority, to ensure that Americans reap the economic, social, and civic benefits of an Open Internet today and into the future,” The FCC said in a press release. “These new rules are guided by three principles: America’s broadband networks must be fast, fair and open — principles shared by the overwhelming majority of the nearly 4 million commenters who participated in the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding.”
The two Republican Commissioners notably opposed the idea, citing concerns for free market competition and over regulation.
Commissioner Ajit Pai accused the FCC of doing an “about-face,” on the issue of Net neutrality, and placed the blame squarely on the president’s shoulders. “We are flip-flopping for one reason and one reason only: President Obama told us to do so,” Pai said.
For his own part, Wheeler defended the move to reclassify broadband as a utility on the grounds that companies have abused the openness of the Internet before, and they will do it again, if left unchecked.
“No one … should control free and open access to the Internet,” Wheeler said before the voting commenced. “It’s the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet. The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules.”
In addition to placing broadband under the umbrella of Title II, the new Net neutrality rules include mobile carriers in the same boat as traditional Internet Service Providers (ISPs), as well as eliminate Internet fast-lanes and paid prioritization. You can see the whole conversation on the FCC’s website.
For more information on what the new rules will do to ensure that the Internet stays open, go to page four. If you want to know what Title II is and how it relates to Net neutrality, go to the next page.
Here’s what it all means and how it affects you.