The Federal Communications Commission announced strict new regulations on the broadband industry in late February. The rules, which passed by a 3-2 vote, are aimed at maintaining an “open Internet,” or “net neutrality.” The FCC is the independent U.S. government agency that regulates interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. territories. The principle underlying the FCC’s new orders says that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat all Internet traffic equally (i.e., neutrally).
Backers of the regulations claim they are needed to ensure that start-up companies and smaller businesses have equal opportunity to succeed on the Internet along with established corporations. They warn that without regulations, those who own the distribution networks will be able to play favorites, and offer faster-speed service to those who can afford to pay more—thus crowding out others. The last time the FCC pushed for similar regulations for the Internet, in 2010, Verizon was successful in getting those rules overturned by a federal appeals court. Opponents of “net neutrality” argue that this major shift toward government control of the Internet will lead to higher rates and slower service for all and to reduced investment and thus less Internet innovation.
In announcing its “open Internet” rules, the FCC took a new regulatory direction. It claimed authority to regulate the Internet based on Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. This law originally applied just to telephone companies. By applying Title II, the FCC is treating the Internet as a public utility, and could thereby exercise broad powers over ISPs, including over the rates they charge for online access. FCC chairman Tom Wheeler says that the FCC will not use all the authority that Title II permits, but “that no one—whether government or corporate—should control free, open access to the Internet.”
Image credit: © AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais
- FCC Approves Net Neutrality Rules for “Open Internet”
This article reports the “net neutrality” ruling of the Federal Communications Commission.
(Source: NPR, February 26, 2015)
- Net Neutrality: President Obama’s Plan for a Free and Open Internet
The White House presents the argument for net neutrality; includes a video of President Obama’s address on “net neutrality,” with transcript, and a time line of his administration’s actions toward this goal.
(Source: whitehouse.gov, February 26, 2015)
- FCC Approves Sweeping Internet Regulation Plan, Obama Accused of Meddling
This article reports the new regulatory framework rolled out by the FCC and some of the objections to it; includes a video discussion of “net neutrality.”
(Source: FoxNews.com, February 26, 2015)
- What Net Neutrality Means for Netflix, Xbox and Skype
This article analyzes the impact of the FCC’s “open Internet” rules for various Internet-based companies.
(Source: U.S. News & World Report, March 2, 2015)
- Open Internet
Read the FCC’s position on the “open Internet” on the agency’s official website.
(Source: FCC.gov; accessed March 23, 2015)