On Thursday, February 26, 2015 the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved the widely-discussed policy known as Net Neutrality. The policy was voted in by a 3-2 vote. During a public statement, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler state that the policy will enforce the concept “that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet.”
This historic policy helps to answer an essential question about how the Internet currently works and how it will be accessed in the future. In short, the Net Neutrality policy will require services providers to be neutral gateways. In other words, the concept of handling different types of Internet traffic in different ways, and at different costs, has been shot-down.
For the supporters of Net Neutrality, the new policy is a welcomed replacement of a prior version that was slated to be adopted in 2010, until Verizon challenged the regulatory power of the FCC. In late 2014 the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit ruled that, in fact, the FCC did not have sufficient regulatory power over broadband. After the ruling, the FCC spent months looking at new ways to reclassify broadband, and thus gain broader regulatory powers. The approval of the new policy means that the FCC will now treat Internet service providers as carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which regulates services as public utilities.
In a post-vote conference, Wheeler went on to say that the new policy provides “landmark open Internet protections.” He went on to say that the policy will, “ban blocking, ban throttling, and ban paid-prioritization fast lanes,” adding that “for the first time, open Internet rules will be fully applicable to mobile.”
FCC Accepts Next Century Cities Petitions
The FCC’s approval of Net Neutrality has already seen immediate effects with Next Century Cities. Two of the Next Century Cities communities, Chattanooga, TN and Wilson, NC, had filed petitions with the FCC. The petitions sought federal relief from state laws, which inhibited the expansion of successful gigabit Internet networks.
Within the petition, over 40 elected officials representing 38 Next Century Cities members, urged the FCC to preserve local choice for broadband Internet. In passing the motion, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler stated, “This decision is pro-broadband. This decision is pro-competition. And this decision is for the rights of Americans, through their elected local officials, to make their own decision about their broadband future.”
In response to the FCC decision, Next Century Cities Executive Director Deb Socia stated, “Today the FCC stood behind local leaders in Wilson and Chattanooga and their call for local choice. But this decision is about more than these two communities—it is a major step forward for all communities seeking next-generation Internet to transform the way we learn, work, and live. Choice and competition are key ingredients to broadening the reach and opportunities afforded by this vital infrastructure. This decision is a win for local choice and a win for competition. It sets a powerful precedent nationwide that cities should be free to choose when it comes to high-quality Internet.”
In the coming weeks and months we will see the true impacts of the FCC decision. Time will tell if appeals or challenges are filed against the FCC decision.