FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules, Classes Internet As A Utility

After a long wait, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) finally voted to approve new net neutrality rules that will prevent ISPs from artificially slowing down content on the open web.

In January, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler unveiled his plans to introduce new rules banning unsavory ISP business practices that consumers have complained about for years, including paid prioritization; which saw some ISPs attempt to effectively extort bandwidth-heavy web services like Netflix.

Earlier today, in the face of mounting political pressure, the FCC took the monumental step of reclassifying broadband internet as a Title II public utility, giving them more regulatory control over ISPs and how they do business. For a long time, the FCC’s talk of ‘open and fair’ internet has just been rhetoric. Now, with the reclassification in place, the FCC can proactively enforce it.

“The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules,” Wheeler said to the crowd at the FCC panel. “So today after a decade of debate in an open, robust year-long process, we finally have legally sustainable rules to ensure that the Internet stays fast, fair and open.”

The move was a controversial one, with both sides spending millions of dollars lobbying both legislators and the public to influence the future of the internet. However, even with the new rules approved, this certainly isn’t the end of story for net neutrality. Numerous ISPs, including Verizon, have threatened to sue the FCC if it reclassified ISPs, and Wheeler has said he expects other lawsuits to follow.

Verizon’s last lawsuit against the FCC in 2011 caused a federal appeals court to repeal an earlier (but weaker) version of the agency’s net neutrality rules. However, in doing so, they paved the way for much greater legislation with this new reclassification.

Before today, the FCC’s authority over ISPs was severely limited. However, by reclassifying broadband internet as a Title II utility, which was originally intended for telephone services, the FCC has effectively given itself jurisdiction over ISPs and greater power to regulate their activities.

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