FCC Announces “Net Neutrality” Regulations

Chairman Wheeler of the Federal Communications Commission listening to fellow commissioners speaking prior to their vote to impose strict “net neutrality” restrictions, Thursday, February 26, 2015

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

Related Links

Comments are closed.