On the morning of Thursday, February 26, the Federal Communications commission voted in favor of adopting a policy of net neutrality. The vote came with remarks by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler assuring the public that this policy will make sure, “that no one–whether government or corporate–should control free open access to the Internet.
What was the exact question at hand?
Whether or not Internet service providers, such as Comcast or Verizon, should have the ability to control the Internet’s speed, and as a result, have consumers at their mercy. Many feared this would hinder the very idea of the Internet in that it is a completely free place for dissent, meeting and content that should be universally available.
The vote was a close one, with the winning vote of 3-2 for adoption of the net neutrality policy. The dissenting votes were from Michael O’Rielly and Ajut Pai, two Republicans who reasoned their decision with the thought that the FCC shouldn’t and doesn’t have the authority to make this decision, and that the act of voting on this issue meant dealing with an issue that didn’t really exist.
The new policy that the FCC is implementing will replace a policy of net neutrality that was adopted in 2010. However, that policy never had its full roll out due to a legal battle with Verizon. Following that ruling, the FCC reclassified broadband in an effort to gain back their regulatory powers. Now, the specific policy is that Internet service providers will act as carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act and the Internet will be regarded as a “public utility”.
This takes power away from government or corporations to be selective or discriminatory in their charging of the source of power, or the consumer. Generally speaking, public utilities are large, stable companies that charge reasonable rates for their product or service based on statutes, regulations, precedence and administers utilities such as water, electricity, gas and telephone services.
Following the vote, there was a wide range of reactions. Barack Obama congratulated and thanked the public for voicing their support for keeping the Internet open and free. Companies like Etsy, Kickstarter and Netflix, large proponents for the net neutrality policy, celebrated and congratulated the public, with wariness of the close 3-2 vote and potential congressional action.
Comcast and Verizon, two of the largest internet service providers, reacted quite negatively to the voting.
In response to the decision, Verizon released a press release dated February 26, 1934 written in classic typewriter font. The press release mentioned and warned that “changing a platform that has been so successful should be done, if at all, only careful policy analysis, full transparency, and by the legislature…As a result, it is likely that history will judge today’s actions as misguided.”
For the consumer, this was entirely precautionary and will not have any major impact on current service. Moving forward, it remains to be seen if the service providers or other organizations will take up action to try to fight against the vote.