FCC approves strong net neutrality rules

FCC approves strong net neutrality rules

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has voted 3-2 in favour of net neutrality rules which will categorise cable and mobile companies as utilities.

The rules ensure that ISPs such as AT&T and Verizon cannot block, censor or pay for so-called “fast lanes” that would prioritise content. The measure also brings mobile internet service under the rules.

“For over a decade, the Commission has endeavoured to protect and promote the open internet. Today is the culmination of that effort, as we adopt the strongest possible open internet protections,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said of the vote on Thursday.

The rules – expected to take effect in the coming weeks – will regulate ISPs under Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. The measure settles a decade-long debate over whether the internet should be offered to consumers on equal terms.

In a statement, president Barack Obama said: "Today's FCC decision will protect innovation and create a level playing field for the next generation of entrepreneurs." 

Republicans in Congress have largely opposed the plan, saying that Wheeler had been pressured by Obama into enforcing the plan. US House speaker John Boehner said lawmakers would attempt to halt the “misguided scheme”.

Verizon, Comcast and AT&T are likely to challenge the rules in court. Responding to the verdict, Comcast’s EVP David Cohen said: "After today, the only 'certainty' is that we all face inevitable litigation and years of regulatory uncertainty.”

On Verizon’s policy blog – written entirely in morse code – the company said the latest measure will “encumber broadband internet services with badly antiquated regulation.”

“The FCC chose to change the way the commercial internet has operated since its creation. Changing a platform that has been so successful should be done, if at all, only after careful policy analysis, full transparency, and by the legislature, which is constitutionally charged with determining policy. As a result, it is likely that history will judge today’s actions as misguided.”

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