The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has just reached a historic decision. The agency approved to reclassify the internet as a utility in support of net neutrality under Title II of the Communications Act via a 3-2 vote on February 26, 2015.
According to The Verge, the FCC’s decision sets up the expectation that internet service providers (ISPs) will take “no actions that unreasonably interfere with or disadvantage consumers or the companies whose sites and apps they’re trying to access.” The only slowing-down of internet speeds the FCC’s new order allows is for “reasonable network management,” as opposed to intentional business advantages (like how Comcast required Netflix to pay for more bandwidth).
“The internet is too important for broadband providers to be making the rules,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said at the vote, as reported by Re/code. “It’s too important to be left without rules and a referee on the field.”
Earlier this month, Wheeler made it very clear that the FCC planned to pursue this internet reclassification under Title II. However, there has been (and still is) a lot of uncertainty floating around the FCC’s decision, and how it will ultimately play out in the end. The Commission has yet to release its official proposal, which is over 300 pages long. Therefore, the language used in the plan isn’t widely known beyond the general information which has already been revealed over the last few months.
Plenty of speculations about the results of the FCC’s decision are circulating, though. Even though The Verge quotes Wheeler as saying “no one, whether government or corporate, should control free and open access to the internet,” many Republicans believe the new regulation nonetheless gives the government that exact, undue control over the internet. And service providers have cited a study (albeit a controversial one) from the Progressive Policy Institute that found the reclassification would only encourage states to tax broadband like they previously taxed landline phones, therefore increasing consumers’ overall costs.
Investor Mark Cuban in particular isn’t happy about the FCC’s decision, either. The billionaire has previously made his opinion about net neutrality as a whole very clear, and just tweeted about his continued disagreement and concern:
1. How long before the fcc rules that digital TV must be treated like any video offered by any website and TV as we know it is gone ?
— Mark Cuban (@mcuban) February 26, 2015
Yet various organizations and individuals are saying the FCC’s internet reclassification is a win for democracy. President Obama, for example, took to the official White House Twitter account to express his happiness with the FCC for listening to Americans:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) February 26, 2015
ISPs could take the FCC to court over this ruling, which could take years to reach a conclusion. At minimum, we won’t likely see the repercussions of the FCC’s decision for several months.