Net neutrality advocates scored a major victory today when the Federal Communications Commission approved net neutrality regulations by a 3-2 vote. The FCC's decision includes reclassifying Internet service as a Title II telecommunications service or public utility, prohibiting broadband providers from charging for faster lanes on the Internet. "The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules," FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said during the meeting. The net neutrality policy, Wheeler added, will ensure "that no one -- whether government or corporate -- should control free open access to the Internet."
The policy bans broadband providers from implementing a paid prioritization system as well as blocking or throttling online traffic, and requires companies to disclose network management practices. Exceptions will be made for "reasonable network management" and certain data services that don't use the public Internet. The policy also allows the FCC to investigate complaints from content providers and network operators of "unjust and unreasonable" interconnection rates and practices.
So what happens next?
Court fights with the broadband providers and legislative leaders that oppose the new rules are already looming.
Michael Powell, a former FCC chairman and head of the cable industry's lobbying organization, decried the FCC's decision as leading to "heavy-handed government regulation in a space celebrated for its free enterprise," in a statement. The FCC, Powell continued, "has taken us in a distressing direction. We must now look to other branches of government for a more balanced resolution."
So, while the FCC took a major step toward ensuring that the Internet will remain available to all users, other issues remain. Title II carries numerous federal and state regulations, relating to rates, service quality, privacy of customer information, and more.
This could lead to a slowdown in innovation among technology platforms, suggests Anna-Maria Kovacs, visiting senior policy scholar at Georgetown University's Center for Business and Public Policy.
"All of this will be litigated...and until it ends, businesses won't know whether they are running unregulated services or services subject to Title II regulations," Kovacs told 1to1 Media. "That's going to leave a lot of small businesses unclear for years about their legal obligations."