FCC Vote A Win For Net Neutrality

26 Feb

The FCC voted today to classify Internet Service Providers as Title II common carriers. The 3-2 vote for the action is a major step to continuing a free and open Internet that many believe will continue to cultivate innovation.

Title II is a distinction given to providers of common services, mainly utilities. If a service is given Title II status it means that a carrier or service provider cannot “make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities, or services”. In the simplest terms, it means that a common carrier cannot charge higher prices for “priority” service or discriminate or deny service based on fees.

By classifying ISP’s as common carriers it allows the FCC to regulate how ISP’s give preference to web traffic. Basically, the FCC has said the ISP’s cannot give priority to one person or company over another based on a price that they pay or the type of service they are providing through the Internet. Essentially, all Internet traffic is considered equal and the ISP cannot enhance performance for a particular service or application.

Ultimately what this hopes to accomplish is to continue building an Internet community that innovates and thrives due to its high availability. Also, broadband access is now sure to be available at affordable prices throughout the United States – similar to electricity or gas services.

Opponents to Net Neutrality believe that classifying ISP’s as Title II and subsequently regulating Internet traffic will stifle innovation and competition. However, proponents of Net Neutrality believe the opposite, that a free and open Internet will enhance innovation and competition among service providers and businesses, thus trickling down to better prices and better products for consumers. With all Internet traffic being considered the same, it allows smaller companies and start ups to keep money in their coffers and not be made bankrupt by ISP’s who would be charging a high price for prioritized speeds and traffic.

So, what happens next? ISP’s initially tried scare tactics to hold off the Title II classification saying in would hurt their own infrastructure and their ability to rollout new services and faster broadband. Well, that obviously didn’t work, and surely the ISP’s aren’t happy with what unfolded today. Legal battles galore are likely on their way if they haven’t been filed already. On the other side of the coin, some believe that the language in the regulations isn’t strict enough and may allow for loopholes. Lawsuits trying to better define the language or strictness of regulation may come as well. Either way, the FCC is going to have their hands full in the coming months.

In the end, today was a win for consumers, small business, and pretty much anybody that’s not an Internet Service Provider. Things may seem like their changing, but not really. Your Internet will still work tomorrow, and your ISP is not going to do anything drastic to your service. You’ll still pay a reasonable (yet still high in some areas) price for Internet service and you’ll still be able to stream as much Netflix as you want. So don’t worry, the Internet isn’t going anywhere.