Net Neutrality: FCC Reclassifies ISPs as Common Carriers

The FCC has finally voted on new Net Neutrality regulations, which means ISPs will be subject to the same rules as other utilities.

After months of planning and political wrangling, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has finally voted on Net Neutrality rules to reclassify internet service providers as “common carriers,” which means that ISPs are subject to the same rules as other utilities. The legislation passed in a 3-2 vote, but the fight isn’t over yet.

FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said in today’s open commission meeting:

It [the internet] is our printing press; it is our town square; it is our individual soap box and our shared platform for opportunity. That is why open internet policies matter. That is why I support network neutrality.

Before the vote, Commissioner Tom Wheeler attempted to alleviate fears that this legislation would place burdensome regulation on the internet.

This is no more a plan to regulate the internet than the first amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. They both stand for the same concept: openness, expression, and an absence of gatekeepers telling people what they can do, where they can go and what they can think.

The core of common carrier legislation is that ISPs must act as neutral gateways to the Internet.  In other words, ISPs are not allowed to speed up or slow down otherwise legal content passing through their networks. SocialTimes has reported on the nature of the regulations in more detail previously.

Despite previous arguments, and the dissent of two commissioners, the new Net Neutrality rules have passed but are likely to be challenged in court. Verizon issued a statement today, in sarcastic Morse Code, declaring the Title II rules “antiquated.”

The company threatened to sue in the past if Title II was a core part of the pending regulations. However, Commissioner Wheeler and the FCC are prepared for a potentially long fight ahead.

During a Q&A following a regular FCC meeting in November:

We are going to be sued. We don’t want to ignore history. We want to come out with good rules that accomplish what we need to accomplish […] and we want those rules to be in place after a court decision…So we want to be sure we’re thoughtful in the way in which we structure them and we’re thoughtful in the way we present what will ultimately be presented to a court.

Top image courtesy of Shutterstock.