FCC Votes, Approves Net Neutrality Rules For Broadband

| 26 Feb 2015 13:45
Tom Wheeler

Broadband Internet access will now be regulated under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

The FCC has today voted on, and passed net neutrality rules proposed by chairman Tom Wheeler. The vote, 3-2 in favor, was split down party lines. Commissioners Wheeler, Rosenworcel, and Clyburn voted in fsvor of the ruleset, while commissioners Pai and O'Rielly dissented.

After roughly a year of court battles, public discourse, and statements from all sides of the tech industry, the vote is the first major pro-net neutrality step taken by the U.S. government. While the public has still not seen the full 332-page FCC proposal, the core concepts are the banning of both paid prioritization, and throttling/blocking of "lawful" content.

The key change is the regulation of broadband Internet access going forward. Up until this point, broadband was classified as an "information service." But that changed today, as the FCC now classifies such networks as a "telecommunications service," which means tighter regulations can be imposed. This reclassification also includes mobile broadband (your cellular data plan), and the ruleset also includes points on consumer privacy/protection, and Internet access provisions for rural areas, and disabled persons.

What does this mean for most of us? Your ISP (Internet Service Provider) cannot block access to a website or service like Amazon or Netflix, nor can they charge Amazon or Netflix for fast access on their network.

"The internet is too important for broadband providers to be making the rules," said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler during today's vote. "It's too important to be left without rules and a referee on the field."

The rules should be met with praise by President Obama, who came out strongly in support of net neutrality last year.

Before the net neutrality vote, the FCC also voted on a measure specific to "municipal broadband," or Internet access provided by a local entity (your town/city government, or a local power utility company, for example). This vote, also 3-2 in favor, effectively allows such providers -- specifically in Wilson, North Carolina, and Chattanooga, Tennessee -- to ignore state laws that prohibit the expansion of such networks. Both cities already have municipal broadband networks, but expansion of the networks was being blocked by state legislators.

"There are a few irrefutable truths about broadband," said chairman Wheeler minutes before the vote. "One is you can't say you're for broadband, and then turn around and endorse limits."

While the vote only affects Wilson and Chattanooga, other cities and towns will undoubtedly use the ruling as precedent if and when they run into the same roadblock.

So how do you feel about today's ruling? Victory? Defeat? A big ol' ball of indifference? Let us know in the comments.

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