Net Neutrality in 3 minutes

“The Internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules.”

This afternoon the FCC voted 3–2 to approve the net neutrality regulation which classifies broadband and wireless Internet as a utility overturning the classification that has been in place since the Telecommunications Act of 1996. So, what does that mean? In 1996 Congress overhauled the Telecommunications Act and placed in it two legal categories to identify communication services:

  • Telecommunications services are services such as a traditional phone line that are regulated as public utilities. The law imposes a wide variety of legal obligations on telecommunications services and gives the FCC broad discretion to regulate them.
  • Information services are services that allow people to store, process, and publish information online — like old-school AOL, or modern services like YouTube or Facebook. These services are exempt from most FCC regulations.

Prior to this afternoon things like the Internet were classified as an Information Service and thus put out of the scope of FCC regulations, by reclassifying the Internet as a Telecommunication Service or a utility it seeks to protect the web from three things that threaten not only the openness, but the innovation and collaboration that can occur on the web.

  • No Blocking — This would keep service providers from keeping websites or apps from reaching customers if those service providers had a reason (competitive or otherwise) to attempt to block the content.
  • No Throttling — This is what they were talking about when you heard about the fast lane and the dirt road. This would make sure service providers could not dial back broadband for any service they wanted to cripple and ramp up services that they would benefit from. It stems from the Comcast vs. Netflix example from last year.
  • To Paid Prioritization — This keeps broadband providers from allowing companies to pay to have their content served ahead of other content.

While the vote was historic there is still precedent of service providers, like Verzion did last year, suing the FCC in order to keep this from happening. We are in a brave new world of the Internet and there is a lot to celebrate, but the hard work has just begun when it comes to keeping the Internet open and free.

Eric HultgrenComment