Federal Communications Commission (FCC) Chairman Tom Wheeler announced a win for net neutrality advocates on Wednesday, asking for strong authority to enforce open Internet protections and protect consumer broadband Internet, the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC. According to The Huffington Post, “this move will allow the FCC to stop Internet service providers (ISPs) from charging content providers like Netflix more money for reliable Internet access.” Wheeler added, “Broadband network operators have an understandable motivation to manage their network to maximize their business interests. But their actions may not always be optimal for network users.” Wheeler will distribute his proposal to other commissioners on Thursday with a vote scheduled for Feb. 26.
USA Today reported, “That Wheeler wants to apply the “Title II” authority for new net neutrality rules — named after the Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 — to regulate ISPs like public utilities has been widely anticipated by industry watchers in recent weeks.” President Obama spoke out in favor of the “Title II” last year, which was applauded by Amazon, Facebook, Google and Netflix, goading the FCC into ensuring a free and open Internet. Now Wheeler will aim to “modernize it” and “tailor [Title II] to the 21st century.” “It is expected that the proposal will reclassify high-speed Internet service as a telecommunications service, instead of an information service,” adds The New York Times. Title II would give the FCC the power to put an embargo on “pay-to-play fast lanes” and ensure that no content is blocked.
If you’re unfamiliar with what net neutrality entails, YouTube’s Vi Hart provides an informative (and colorful) lesson in open Internet:
Wheeler explained his regulations to Wired, “These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply — for the first time ever — those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”
Many consumer advocates of Title II applauded Wednesday’s announcement: “The Internet is the town hall of the 21st century; if we want our democracy to flourish, we must see that it remains open to everyone,” said Miles Rapoport, president of non-profit group Common Cause told USA Today. “That’s why today’s signal that the FCC will reclassify Internet service under Title II… is so important.”
While many consumers were pleased with these proposed regulations, many of the ISP giants are up in arms. AT&T vice president for federal regulatory Hank Hultquist threatened to sue should the regulations become enforced. He argued, “Those who oppose efforts at compromise because they assume Title II rests on bulletproof legal theories are only deceiving themselves.” Michael Glover, deputy general counsel for Verizon, also issued a statement: “Heavily regulating the Internet for the first time is unnecessary and counterproductive.” USA Today explained, “Without specific rules, ISPs would be tempted to ban, slow down or seek payment from content providers that compete with a company that has an affiliation or is owned by the Internet provider.” The ISPs held firm that such regulations could stifle the creativity behind streaming networks and prevent further investments made in the sector.
David Segal, executive director of Demand Progress, an Internet activism group, told The Huffington Post in a statement, “We look forward to seeing the exact details of the FCC’s rules. All indications point to this announcement as reassuring for the future of the Internet, free speech and American innovation.”