The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just taken a very public, very determined stance on the subject of net neutrality. Chairman Tom Wheeler said he plans to reclassify internet service providers (ISPs) as common carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.
Wheeler revealed on Wired how he wants to push rules to “preserve the internet as an open platform for innovation and free expression.” “I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC,” he wrote. “These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services.”
Should the FCC manage to reclassify ISPs as utilities, it would mean consumers would have more options in terms of internet service providers and that those providers couldn’t charge businesses and individuals higher fees for faster internet speeds. Wheeler’s proposed plan would also include mobile carriers and data, because he wants to ensure innovation without restrictions and the ability for internet users “to go where they want, when they want.”
“Broadband network operators have an understandable motivation to manage their network to maximize their business interests,” Wheeler explained. “But their actions may not always be optimal for network users.”
Back in January 2014, the FCC was in support of net neutrality but a federal appeals court claimed the FCC had no power to tell ISPs like Comcast and Verizon to treat all internet traffic equally. As such, ISPs were allowed to charge companies more for higher bandwidth speeds (a situation Netflix became all too familiar with due to the streaming service taking up roughly 32% of all downstream traffic in the U.S. and Canada). A few months later in April, the FCC essentially backtracked on its previous stance and implied it would back a proposal allowing “fast” and “slow” lanes on the internet. The Commission’s new stance threatened to kill off net neutrality all together.
The web’s users weren’t happy. Net neutrality supporters like Hank Green, Cenk Uyger of The Young Turks, and Vi Hart all expressed their concerns about what would happen to smaller businesses and individual citizens who couldn’t afford to pay for faster internet speeds. And then in September 2014, several website such as YouTube, Kickstarter, VHX, Vimeo, and WordPress banded together to support Internet Slowdown Day to urge the FCC to vote in favor of net neutrality…again.
Now it appears the FCC is doing just that. The FCC will vote on this new proposal on February 26, 2015. Until that time, you can read Chairman Wheeler’s entire statement on net neutrality on Wired, and then keep sending your comments on the matter to the FCC via their website or specified email address.