On Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission approved a new set of “Net neutrality” rules designed to protect openness on the Internet by treating it much like regulated telecommunications markets.
The new net neutrality regulations were approved on a vote of 3-2, with the Commission’s two Democrats and Chairman Tom Wheeler voting yes. The Commission’s two Republican members voted no.
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The final approved plan includes a last-minute revision to remove a potential loophole (highlighted by Google) that might have permitted a limited amount of paid prioritization.
In her testimony before the committee, the CEO of online market site Etsy Chad Dickerson said she “applauded” the FCC for insisting on “bright line” rules, and “voting to protect the Internet.”
More on new net neutrality rules
The new Net neutrality rules mean Internet service providers like Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon Communications cannot discriminate against any website or online service. Moreover, sites like Netflix and YouTube won’t have to pay extra fees or face sluggish connections. By the same token, new websites and online services will be available to everyone on the Internet on the same terms.
The new rules are in response to court rulings striking down earlier Net neutrality regulations, pointing out the FCC lacked the legal authority to impose such rules. Defining high-speed Internet service as a telecommunications service cleanly sidesteps the problem and gives the FCC the clear legal right to regulate like other telecoms.
The new rules apply to both wired and wireless Internet connections, and define several restrictions on Internet service providers. For example, they may not slow down or block access to any legal content, applications or services. Similarly, providers may not assign “fast lanes” that speed up traffic for those who are willing to pay higher fees.
Statement from FCC Commissioner Mignon Clyburn
“We are here to ensure that there is only one Internet, where applications, new products, ideas and points of view have an equal chance of being seen and heard,” Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said. “We are here because we want to enable those with deep pockets as well as those with empty pockets the same opportunities to succeed.”