March 2, 2015
FCC lawmakers have finally settled upon a verdict regarding net neutrality.
It’s been a long (and very controversial) road, but more than a year after the issue hit the public sphere and generated plenty of heated debates and contention (see How FCC Regulations Could Change the Internet), FCC commissioners voted in favor of net neutrality advocates – including the President himself (see President Obama Publicly Supports Net Neutrality).
According to reports, these votes exactly followed party lines with the three Democrats voting for and two Republicans voting against net neutrality.*
Under these new laws, Internet service providers (ISPs) may not grant faster access to companies who pay more, thus making the whole Internet “equally accessible,” according to net neutrality supporters.
The ruling is widely being hailed as a success for the American public: the movement garnered strong support after the direct ramifications to everyday internet usage became clear, and in the end, the FCC received more than 4 million comments on their website – many advocating for net neutrality.
In addition, content providers like Netflix and Google defeated ISPs such as Comcast and Time Warner Cable (who would have profited from an open market on special Internet deals).
As with all groundbreaking decisions, this verdict creates a precedent in the telecom industry – the ramifications of which are unclear.
On one hand, supporters of net neutrality maintain that online content and applications should be equally accessible, meaning that no websites or online services should be faster or slower as a result of special deals with internet service providers. Theoretically, this will protect content companies and consumers from unfair prices and slow speeds, respectively.
Alternatively, although eliminating an equal internet would undoubtedly change our online experience, opponents of net neutrality say that the Title II designations will stifle innovation in broadband (for a deeper look into Title II, see How FCC Regulations Could Change the Internet).*
For the average consumer, Internet browsing won’t immediately change.
According to experts, “all this ruling means is that there will be FCC jurisdiction to examine practices and hear complaints” regarding the open Internet.*