FCC votes 3-2 in favor of net neutrality
The Federal Communications Commission voted in favor of net neutrality at a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 26. The vote passed 3-2, which will cause the FCC to adopt new rules that supporters intend to protect and promote an open Internet.
Net neutrality is the idea that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) should not serve as gatekeepers, determining the speed of traffic to individual websites. Essentially, a Verizon, a Comcast, and an AT&T should treat each website equally. Otherwise, ISPs could charge different companies like Netflix or Amazon to improve or downgrade how their websites perform.
These new rules will treat internet access like a utility, and it is also the first time such rules will be fully applicable to mobile internet services
After impassioned arguments from both sides in a committee led by FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, the FCC voted infavor of regulating internet providers via Title II of the Telecommunications Act.
“No one, whether government or corporate, should control access to the open internet,” Wheeler said in his closing speech before the vote. “The internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules.”
Chairman Wheeler, as well as commissioners Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn voted for net neutrality, while commissioners Ajit Pai and Michael O’Rielly voted against.
Earlier in the session, the FCC voted 3-2 in favor of prempting state laws in Tennessee and North Carolina to allow cities from each state, Chattanooga and Wilson respectively, to expand their locally run broadband networks. Both of these cities have high-speed internet services but were previously blocked from delivering their services to nearby communities due to laws in each state. While other states also have these sets of restrictions in place, the FCC only overturned them in these two cases.
The battle for and against net neutrality has been a years-long one, though it was particularly brought into the public eye when John Oliver devoted most of an episode of Last Week Tonight to the issue. He encouraged viewers to go to the FCC website and request that they create new net neutrality rules, and in doing so caused the FCC site to break.
These rules will likely not go into effect for at least a couple of months, and there is of course the strong possibility that internet providers will contest this ruling in court. However, it is still a major win for net neutrality advocates who have been working for years to put such rules in place.