The Federal Communications Commission today voted to regulate broadband Internet service as a public utility, making the wishes of U.S. President Barrack Obama a reality.
Not surprisingly, the decision to reclassify broadband Internet as a telecom service, which is also known as Title II, was not a unanimous one.
The 3-2 vote was split along party lines, with the Republican commissioners being the dissenting voices.
“This modernized Title II will ensure the FCC can rely on the strongest legal foundation to preserve and protect an open Internet,” said FCC chairman Tom Wheeler.
“Allow me to emphasize that word ‘modernized.’ We have heard endless repetition of the talking point that ‘Title II is old-style, 1930’s monopoly regulation.’ It’s a good sound bite, but it is misleading when used to describe the modernized version of Title II in this Order.”
Under the new rules, blocking and throttling become major no-nos as does paid prioritization, meaning broadband providers cannot implement “fast lanes” for streaming video providers willing to fork over enough cash.
The new rules also hand the Commission the authority to address questionable practices on a case-by-case basis.
Transparency also plays a major role under Title II and forces broadband providers to disclose promotional rates, fees and surcharges and data caps in a consistent format.
The reclassification is also a bid to ensure the rules will stand up to court challenges in the future, a problem for the FCC in the past.
Commissioner Ajit Pai, a Republican, said the new rules could harm a competitive market, deter investment and innovation which, in turn, would hurt consumers.
“The Internet is not broken,” Pai said. “There is no problem to solve.”
Wheeler, however, does not see it that way.
“The American people reasonably expect and deserve an Internet that is fast, fair, and open,” he said. “Today they get what they deserve: strong, enforceable rules that will ensure the Internet remains open, now and in the future.”