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FCC Passes Net Neutrality Rules, Opponents Fight On

February 26, 2015 · Posted in M&E Daily, M&E Exclusive · Comments Off 

By Chris Tribbey

A divided Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Feb. 26 to reclassify the Internet much like a public utility, making net neutrality law “once and for all” and “ending lingering uncertainty about the future of the open Internet,” the commission said in a statement. However, opponents of net neutrality – congressional Republicans, Internet service providers (ISPs) and others – vowed to continue fighting, using both legislation and the courts.

The 3-2 decision, split along partisan lines, will prevent Internet service providers (ISPs) from charging for prioritization of online content, will prevent ISPs from blocking or throttling legal content and services online, and calls for greater transparency from broadband providers regarding promotional rates, fees and surcharges and data caps. The new rules apply to both fixed and mobile broadband.

“Under the order we adopt today, open Internet protections would – for the first time – apply equally to both fixed and mobile networks,” FCC chairman Tom Wheeler said. “Mobile wireless networks account for 55% of Internet usage. We cannot have two sets of Internet protections – one fixed and one mobile – when the difference is increasingly anachronistic to consumers.”

Twice before courts have ruled against the FCC’s attempts to implement net neutrality rules, but by classifying broadband Internet as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934, the commission believes it’s on more solid legal footing.

“The order finds that the nature of broadband Internet access service has not only changed … but that broadband providers have even more incentives to interfere with Internet openness today,” the FCC said.

Republican FCC chairman Ajit Pai – one of the two dissenting votes Thursday – called the new order (which has yet to be released in full to the public) unnecessary “government control” of the Internet, fixing a problem that doesn’t exist.

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