FCC protects a free internet in landmark decision

(Image Credit: iStockPhoto/ZoliMajor25)

Whilst most internet-related headlines overnight surrounded two escaped llamas and a dress, the biggest news came from the FCC who approved the long-awaited decision to classify broadband as a Title II public utility.

The new rules provide the FCC with more powers to protect a free and open internet which offers fair access to all through banning things like the implementation of "fast lanes" that would allow ISPs to offer paid prioritisation to some bandwidth-intensive services such as Netflix.

The decision will raise hopes it's the end of a long fight to protect the foundations of the internet.

Despite ISPs arguments that services which consume so much bandwidth should cough-up the cash for infrastructure investments, the danger of treating services on a case-by-case basis would disrupt the balance of the internet and fairness. There is also the case that providers such as AT&T could throttle competitors in order to boost their own streaming services.

"It [the internet] is our printing press; it is our town square; it is our individual soap box and our shared platform for opportunity," said FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel during today's open commission meeting. "That is why open internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality."

Whilst for many - including the more than four million consumers who wrote to the FCC - the decision will raise hopes it's the end of a long fight to protect the foundations of the internet. Tom Wheeler, Chairman of the FCC, doesn't expect this to be the case...

Wheeler is expecting several lawsuits to arise from the decision; including from Verizon who previously made threats to sue the regulator if it went the public utility route. In 2010, Verizon did sue the FCC for issuing rules preventing Internet service providers from blocking or discriminating against traffic by relying on Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act.

This lawsuit was successful, despite fellow ISPs reportedly attempting to convince Verizon not to sue the FCC as it would lead to the pursuit of stricter utility regulations which indeed have now ended-up being put in place (to the anger of competitors.)

At one point, it seemed like the big ISPs would have their way after Verizon's court "win" back in 2010. This outcome was pivoted after the activism of millions of internet users and the lobbying support of companies whose services rely on an open and free internet such as; Google, Twitter, Reddit, and Netflix. This isn't the end, but it's a win to pop the champagne for.

Are you pleased with the FCC's Title II decision? Let us know in the comments.

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