The Federal Communications Commission approved the policy known as net neutrality by a 3-2 vote at its Thursday meeting, with FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler saying the policy will ensure “that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet.”

The Open Internet Order helps to decide an essential question about how the Internet works, requiring service providers to be a neutral gateway instead of handling different types of Internet traffic in different ways — and at different costs.fcc-net-neutrality-vote

The main changes for broadband providers are as follows:

  • Broadband access is being reclassified as a telecommunications service, meaning it will be subject to much heavier regulation
  • Broadband providers cannot block or speed up connections for a fee
  • Internet providers cannot strike deals with content firms, known as paid prioritisation, for smoother delivery of traffic to consumers
  • Interconnection deals, where content companies pay broadband providers to connect to their networks, will also be regulated
  • Firms which feel that unjust fees have been levied can complain to the FCC. Each one will be dealt with on a case by case basis
  • All of the rules will also apply to mobile providers as well as fixed line providers
  • The FCC won’t apply some sections of the new rules, including price controls

Wheeler argued that the rules aren’t draconian. He said he stripped out some of the obligations that apply to phones — there are no caps on how much broadband companies may charge consumers or tariffs on Internet traffic.

And after more than a decade of debate at the FCC over net neutrality, Wheeler seemed to recognize the historic importance of the vote, saying “it was the proudest day of my public policy life.”

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