As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed new net neutrality regulations today on a vote of 3-2, with the Commission’s two Democratic appointees joining Chairman Tom Wheeler in voting yes. The Commission’s two Republican-appointed members both voted no.
Notably, the FCC’s plan is now known to have undergone a last-minute revision to remove a potential weakness in its formation, pointed out by Google, that might have allowed for some paid prioritization. If you were curious about Google’s take on net neutrality, that fact should settle the question. The CEO of Etsy, an online marketplace, spoke before the commission voted to “applaud” the FCC for putting into place “bright line” rules, and “voting to protect the Internet.”
Up first from the commission, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in her remarks that the “framers” of America “would be pleased” with the FCC’s plan. The commissioner went on to call today’s vote the FCC’s “third bite at the apple.” Clyburn also disclosed, as was previously reported, that she had helped shape part of the order, and also listed a number of changes she would have preferred to see in the order itself. The commissioner wrapped by arguing that individuals who are worried about rate regulation are worrying unnecessarily.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel argued that the United States’ “Internet economy is the envy of the world. We invented it. The app economy began right here on our shores.” She went on to call the Internet “our printing press” and “our town square.” Rosenworcel also called attention to the massive outpouring of public response to net neutrality: “Four million Americans wrote to this agency…Whatever our disagreements are on net neutrality, I hope we agree that this is democracy in action and something we can all support.”
More from Wired:
With the vote, the FCC is changing the way it views both wireless and fixed-line broadband service providers, reclassifying them as “Title II” common carriers under the nation’s telecommunications laws. The Title II designation, which already covers voice services, gives the FCC the ability to set rates, open up access to competitors, and generally more closely regulate the broadband industry. It’s a reversal of course for the FCC, which until now did not even enforce net neutrality rules on wireless broadband services, and very lightly regulated fixed providers. But it’s also a return to the regulatory regime that governed consumer internet services 20 years ago, when hundreds of dial-up internet service providers competed on Title II-regulated phone networks.
Internet service providers and Republican commissioners on the FCC see the new rules as unnecessary and dangerous government interference. “The internet is not broken,” said FCC Commissioner Ajit Pai. “There is no problem for the government to solve.” Ironically, today’s vote was first set in motion by a series of lawsuits dating back several years, which challenged the FCC’s ability to enforce it’s own net neutrality regulations. Last year the latest legal challenge ended when a D.C. court ruled in Verizon’s favor, saying that the way that the FCC had classified internet services didn’t give it the right to enforce net neutrality.
Conservative groups and the American Family Foundation have vigorously opposed net neutrality. Because Obama.