Historic ‘Net Neutrality’ Vote: Internet Open & Equal for All

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In a monumental decision, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) today voted 3-2 in favor of keeping the Internet “neutral” – a regulation also known as “Net Neutrality.”

As part of this historic decision, the Internet (or “consumer broadband”) will be reclassified as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act and make for what FCC’s chairman Tom Wheeler called “the strongest open Internet protections ever proposed by the FCC.”

“The action that we take today is an irrefutable reflection of the principle that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet,” Wheeler announced at the vote on Thursday.

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Why Was This an Issue?

The conversation around Net Neutrality started to gain traction when the FCC, in early 2014, considered supporting a two-tiered Internet, which would essentially give big corporations like Comcast and Verizon the ability (simply by paying a premium for better Internet service) to push certain data to consumers faster than smaller competitors, such as start-up companies and small businesses.

It would have distorted the Internet as we know it, because two-tiered Internet could have increased premium-paying corporations’ chance to influence what consumers will see on their screens, while slower services would run the risk of quickly becoming irrelevant as a result.

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Tech giants like Tumblr and Google have been fierce supporters of strong net neutrality rules that would prevent a two-tiered Internet from ever happening.

The debate took a turn when John Oliver of HBO’s Last Week Tonight raised public awareness of the issue and asked his viewers to submit their concerns to the government, which caused the FCC’s website to crash the very next day due to an overwhelming public response.

Then in November, President Obama spoke out and suggested that reclassifying the Internet as a public utility would be the way to go.

“I’m urging the Federal Communications Commission to do everything they can to protect Net Neutrality for everyone. They should make it clear that whether you use a computer, phone, or tablet, Internet providers have a legal obligation not to block or limit your access to a website. Cable companies can’t decide which online stores you can shop at or which streaming services you can use. And they can’t let any company pay for priority over its competitors,” Obama said in the announcement.

What Now?

The FCC clearly heard the public’s and the President’s concerns and has brought forth several proposals over the last few months, the final of which the members voted on today.

“The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules,” Wheeler concluded. 

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In addition to reclassifying the Internet as a utility, the FCC announced that the Internet will stay free of certain crippling regulations. As a result, no one will be allowed to block or throttle any lawful content or service “for any user, for any reason, or for no reason at all.”


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