This morning the FCC voted to uphold net neutrality rules, ensuring that Internet service providers will treat all websites and web traffic neutrally. Basically, you can rest assured that you will be able to watch your HBO shows just as seamlessly as your favorite Netflix shows.
The FCC determined that Internet service providers will now be classified under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which regulates services like your telephone provider as public utilities.
“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,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said before today’s vote.
The issue has been a divisive one. The two dissenters in today’s 3-2 vote were Republicans Michael O’Reilly and Ajut Pai.
While Internet freedom activists and content providers (Google, Apple, etc.) have been lobbying for these rules, service providers (Verizon, AT&T, etc.) have been fighting against them.
As The Huffington Post reports, these rules didn’t sit well with everyone:
“The FCC has taken us in a distressing direction. We must now look to other branches of government for a more balanced resolution,” said Michael Powell, president and CEO of the National Cable & Telecommunications Association, a trade group.
The FCC’s two Republican commissioners attacked the vote. Commissioner Ajit Pai called the decision an “about-face” and stoked conservative fears by claiming, “We are flip-flopping for one reason and one reason only: President Obama told us to do so.”
Verizon released a press release in morse code to underline its reaction to the decision, saying that the FCC was using old fashioned regulations in today’s interconnected world. “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,” Verizon said in the statement.
Net neutrality advocates have been fighting hard and rallying their online communities to raise awareness of the issue. Tumblr (“Today’s FCC vote was a momentous one for everybody on the internet) and Kickstarter (“Today’s step is a huge victory”) both heralded today’s vote. (Read more on what all sides are saying at The Verge.)
Republicans in Congress have mostly quieted on the issue, conceding a win on net neutrality to President Obama, who has championed the idea. However, the new rules will likely be fought over in court and could be overturned by a future Republican-leaning FCC commission.
In the meantime, enjoy your high speed internet and don’t blame the FCC if you still have to restart your router every once in a while.