While most Americans spent their time online Thursday arguing over dress color, or watching Llamas on the Lam, the FCC pulled the trigger on new net neutrality rules, designed to maintain equality among all content providers on the Internet.
As expected, the vote fell along party lines. Immediately, the big internet service providers (ISPs) and many government officials condemned the new rules, threatening both legal and legislative challenges, some before the vote was even taken.
At least for now, by a narrow 3-2 vote, all of our websites will continue to be treated equally by services providers; our content will not be slowed down or sped up according to any sort of tiered delivery. Furthermore, ISPs will now be classified as public utilities, much like phone companies, and will be subject to regulations to ensure that all consumers have equal access to their services.
Although not receiving as much attention as net neutrality, the FCC also ruled to lift bans and restrictions which inhibit local municipalities from building their own broadband networks, previously allowing only private cable companies to provide internet access. This ruling gives consumers a choice of service providers for their internet, something many Americans do not currently have.
This victory is historic for net neutrality activists, content providers and tech influencers, whose sustained and vocal protest was actually heard over arguably one of the most powerful and wealthy lobbying interests in America today. Said Steve Wozniak, co-founder of Apple, in celebrating the FCC’s decision, “It goes a lot further than net neutrality. Title II regulation means oversight of bad behavior.”
Critics of the ruling were quick to point out the FCC has a habit of being over regulatory, which could hurt innovation and ultimately lead to higher prices for consumers. Arizona Senator John McCain tweeted immediately after the ruling, “This is a matter for Congress to carefully consider and correct.”
For now, we all get to keep our websites in the fast lane on the information super-highway. But keep an eye on those highway alert signs, as this is just one battle in what could end up being a very long war for control of the Internet.