Net Neutrality: The war for the internet has begun
February 27, 2015
The war for the internet has begun with the historic vote on Thursday in the United States in favour of net neutrality. The vote was taken by the Federal Communications Commission chaired by Tom Wheeler. As USA Today has been reporting:
The FCC's action triggered jubilation among open Internet enthusiasts, but the powerful telecom industry is poised for a legal challenge to the new rules. And Republicans in Congress are pushing legislation that would supersede the FCC's approach.
In a 3-2 vote along party lines, the FCC acted to implement net neutrality rules designed to ensure that Internet service providers (ISPs) treat all legal content equally, eliciting howls of protest from the ISPs.
Responding to the outcome with mockery and defiance, Verizon dismissed the new guidelines, which are based on a 1934 law, as a set of rules "written in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph." And in a clever PR gambit that was shared widely on social media, the company issued statements opposing the FCC action written with a typewriter in Morse code.
AT&T raised the prospect of court challenges that would block the FCC from enforcing the rules. "We once again face the uncertainty of litigation, and the very real potential of having to start over — again — in the future," said Jim Cicconi, AT&T's senior executive vice president external and legislative affairs, in a statement.The FCC's previous net neutrality rules were thrown out by a federal court last year.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, who called Thursday "the proudest day of (his) public policy career," has worked on the other side as a cable lobbyist and knew well the fierce and heavily financed opposition the agency might face. But that didn't stop him from proposing — with a nudge from President Obama — a stringent set of rules that would ban ISPs from blocking or throttling on their networks any legal content from outside content providers. The new rules would also ban ISPs from seeking payments in exchange for faster lanes of their Internet networks, a practice called "paid prioritization."
"The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules," said Wheeler to applause from the standing room-only crowd gathered before the FCC members.
Joining Wheeler, who was appointed by President Obama, in voting for his plan were commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, both Democrats. The commision's two Republicans, Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly, voted against it.
The controversial proceedings in the run-up to the vote generated heated lobbying in Washington, D.C., and public clamor on social media, all in an effort to shape the Internet's future.
Implementing the principle at a time when Internet streaming technology is changing so rapidly proved challenging to Wheeler as he sought to balance the varying interests of influential content streamers, like Netflix, and large ISPs that have spent millions to fight the effort. The FCC was besieged with passionate comments from both sides of the debate, receiving about 4 million comments, a record.
Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, tweeting to his followers that he "had to be there," stood after the vote and applauded the commissioners. "This is a victory for the people," he told Bloomberg TV, echoing similar sentiments expressed in flurries of e-mails by consumer groups and technology companies.
The proposal reclassifies ISPs, including wireless data providers, as public utilities, like phone companies, that are subject to regulations that ensure all consumers get fair access to their services. The authority for the new rules comes from Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The new rules also call for the regulators to "forbear" — or refrain — from some provisions of Title II, including pricing regulation and other parts that are less relevant to broadband services.
The FCC said the regulations will be posted online as quickly as possible and subsequently published in the Federal Register. They become effective 60 days after publication.
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