The FCC's "momentous" Title II ruling for Internet access has Net Neutrality proponents celebrating, and ISPs and anti-regulation Republicans fuming
The US Federal Communications Commission has voted, 3-2 on party lines, that wired and wireless Internet access should be treated as an utility and regulated according.
The ruling has been hailed as a major victory for Net Neutrality proponents, which include consumer groups, tech giants such as Netflix, as well as the White House.
Opponents of the ruling, which include large ISPs Verizon and Comcast, along with Republican allies in the House and Senate, warned against government regulation of the Internet and vowed to fight the ruling via "years of litigation".
Net Neutrality promises to keep the Internet as it is, without ISP regulated "fast lanes" that could be sold exclusively to large companies, which would in effect relegate regular net traffic to "slow lanes". ISPs could force large bandwidth consumers like Netflix to pay a toll of sorts to keep the broadband traffic lanes open, or Netflix customers could find their connections too slow to stream Netflix movies, for example.
Net Neutrality was dealt a serious blow early last year when the U.S. Court of Appeals sided with ISP Verizon in gutting the FCC's Open Internet rules. But since then, Net Neutrality supporters have changed strategy and instead called for Internet services to be reclassified under Title II of the Communications Act, which would treat it as an utility, like water or electricity. This would then grant the government some regulatory control over Internet access, thus ensuring open and equal access for all.
Key Democrats and the White House, many have long been Net Neutrality supporters, hailed the ruling. Senator Al Franken called the ruling "an enormous victory", adding that the ruling "is the culmination of years of hard work by countless Americans who believe — just as I do — that the internet should remain the free and open platform that it’s always been."
President Obama and the White House also celebrated the win. "Today's FCC decision will protect innovation and create a level playing field for the next generation of entrepreneurs," the President said via an official White House statement.
Tech and Internet companies including Microsoft Netflix, Kickstarter and Tumblr supported the ruling, with Netflix hailing it as a win for consumers, and with Tumblr calling today's decision a "momentous" one for all Internet users.
Republicans sided with ISPs, calling the decision a government overreach. Senator John McCain joined 21 members of the House in condemning the decision. They have promised to use their legislative powers, promising to pass a resolution "nullify the Open Internet rules" and prevent the FCC from "relying on Title II for any future net neutrality rules".
Braving the Internet public by posting his opposition to the ruling on Twitter (the social media platform, incidentally, a strong supporter of Net Neutrality), Sen. McCain tweeted that "Internet should be free & open, not regulated by federal bureaucrats." The replies to his tweet were numerous, and most did not side with the Senator from Arizona - a reply from @rawker said "The internet should be free & open, not regulated by monopolies."
But it was the major ISPs that objected most to the ruling. Verizon said via a statement that "history will judge today's actions as misguided", while Comcast was even more open in showing its disgust with the ruling. "We are disappointed the Commission chose this route, which is certain to lead to years of litigation and regulatory uncertainty and may greatly harm investment and innovation, when the use of Section 706 alone would have provided a much more certain and legally sustainable path," Comcast said via a statement.