In a close 3-2 vote, the FCC awarded itself more power over broadband providers than ever before
America’s Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has passed tough new rules that will ensure broadband providers in the US cannot create ‘fast lanes’ that slow or block online traffic.
During a hotly anticipated vote, members of FCC today gave a slim thumbs up to the new rules with three members in favour and two against. Tech companies and activists argue the new regulation is crucial in protecting net neutrality, the idea that all services and information should have equal access to the Internet.
No fast lanes
The rules hand the US regulator, supposedly an independent agency of the US government, more powers over the cable industry than it’s ever had since the Internet became mainstream. Along with preventing the creation of fast lanes, the FCC will also have the power to challenge any unforeseen barriers broadband providers could potentially create as the Internet evolves.
In the run up to the vote, the FCC received almost 4 million comments regarding the issue from concerned Internet users around the globe.
In a statement to those who offered comment on the rules at proposal stage, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, said: “Your participation has made this the most open process in FCC history. We listened and we learned.”
Wheeler described today as “a red-letter day for Internet freedom”, suggesting that the USA’s net neutrality protections set an example to other countries attempting to control the Internet.
Wheeler added: “The Internet is simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field. Today’s order is more powerful and more expansive than any previously suggested.”
Not everyone is happy, though. The ruling has been slammed and branded ‘misguided’ by broadband provider Verizon, which said the rules were “written in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph”.
A statement from the company read: “Today’s decision by the FCC to encumber broadband internet services with badly antiquated regulations is a radical step that presages a time of uncertainty for consumers, innovators and investors. History will judge today’s actions as misguided”.
But Columbia Law School Prof Tim Wu, who originally coined the net neutrality phrase, can see only positives in the new rules.
He commented: “It is a historic day in the history of the Internet. Net neutrality, long in existence as a principle, has been codified in a way that will likely survive court scrutiny. More generally, this marks the beginning of an entirely new era of how communications are regulated in the US.”
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