The US Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 Thursday to regulate broadband internet and ban companies from paying for so-called “fast lanes” that would prioritise content.
This is a big win for net neutrality advocates.
Net neutrality is the concept that all content should be able to flow through the internet at the same speed. If rich companies are allowed to pay (ISPs) for faster access to customers, it’d give them an unfair advantage over smaller companies that may have a better product. It would effectively keep those companies from being able to compete on a level playing field.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler gave a preview of the proposal to ensure net neutrality in an op-ed in Wired earlier this month.
It would regulate both wired and wireless broadband under something called Title II, which means internet service would be classified as a utility just like phone lines.
The proposal would have certain restrictions to tamp down fears from internet service providers (ISPs). For example, the proposal would not give the FCC authority to regulate pricing of internet service like it could with phone service, because the FCC does not view ISPs as monopolies as it does phone companies.
It’s not over. The telecom companies like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T are likely going to try and fight the FCC’s proposal. In fact, AT&T has already started its case against the FCC. Congress will likely take action on net neutrality in the coming months. Meanwhile, the FCC will have to release the full proposal — which is reportedly over 300 pages — so people can look it over and submit comments.
The argument ISPs have against the FCC’s decision is that government regulation will keep them from building out their networks and offering new products and services to customers. Sceptics of that think the ISPs would really prefer to have an outlet to make more money from companies that distribute content over the internet.