Last week, the U.S. Court of Appeals in Washington D.C. decided in favor of Open Internet regulations for both wired and wireless internet services in a 2-1 vote.
The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, established the “net neutrality” rules so that telecom companies can’t block or slow down certain websites, and speed up Internet services for companies who pay more, creating what some called a “two lane” Internet — one fast (for those who pay), one slow (for those who don’t have the financial means).
Here is John Oliver’s brilliant explanation of the problem:
The decision to reject the petition filed by several telecom, wireless, and cable Internet providers has been hailed as a victory for consumers and Internet users.
“Today’s ruling … ensures the Internet remains a platform for unparalleled innovation, free expression and economic growth. After a decade of debate and legal battles, today’s ruling affirms the Commission’s ability to enforce the strongest possible Internet protections — both on fixed and mobile networks — that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said in a statement.
Last year, the FCC changed the status of broadband service by reclassifying it as a regulated telecommunications service, thus, making it official that Internet is an essential utility — like water and electricity — to modern life.
Telecom companies like Comcast, and AT&T have tried to control the usability of different sites for profit, instead of providing equal access to all of their customers. Without these regulations in place, service providers could vary the quality or speed of the Internet from company to company, or site to site. The new ruling ensures that the web will continue to be treated as a utility, with network access and traffic monitored by federal oversight.
Following lawsuits, lobbying, and pressure from the telecom industry, around 4 million people wrote to the FCC demanding that the Commission uphold the net neutrality laws that are in place. The appeals process is expected to continue all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court.
President Obama is in support of Open Internet laws, and spoke out in 2014 in an official statement saying in part, “‘Net neutrality’ has been built into the fabric of the Internet since its creation — but it is also a principle that we cannot take for granted. We cannot allow Internet service providers to restrict the best access or to pick winners and losers in the online marketplace for services and ideas.” (You can watch Obama’s full statement in the video above.)