FCC Votes for Net Neutrality
In a 3-2 vote along party lines on February 26, the Federal Communications Commission approved a proposal from Democratic Chairman Tom Wheeler that would classify the Internet as a public utility. “Today is a red-letter day,” said Wheeler.
As a public utility, the Internet would be under the regulation of the FCC. In the proposal, the committee banned paid prioritization, meaning internet service providers (ISPs) won’t be able to offer different Internet speeds at different prices.
The fight for net neutrality has included strong support from Internet giants including Google, Amazon, and Netflix. And it has included many other advocates, big and small, as more than four million public comments were filed with the FCC.
Unsurprisingly, ISPs disagree with the ruling. Verizon senior vice president Michael Glover described Wheeler’s proposal as “unnecessary and counterproductive,” and AT&T’s senior executive vice president of external and legislative affairs, Jim Cicconi, prefers to “safeguard the open Internet without risk to needed investment and years of legal uncertainty.”
Cicconi also called attention to the partisan split of the vote: “The 3-2 FCC vote, along party lines, for sweeping new regulation of the Internet, is a rejection of the compromise win and an embrace, however reluctant, of the political fight.” While Republican Commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly voted against Wheeler’s proposal, Republicans in Congress, who once criticized the proposal as “Obamacare for the Internet,” say they are unlikely to fight the ruling.
The fight isn’t over. According to VentureBeat, ISPs are expected to file suit against the FCC, arguing that ISPs not only deliver information but also are information services, which would place them outside of FCC regulation.