FCC adopts Open Internet rules

FCC adopts Open Internet rules

[JURIST] The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] on Thursday adopted Open Internet rules [press release, PDF] by a 3-2 vote. The Open Internet Order reclassifies broadband internet as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act [text], bringing broadband providers within the authority of the FCC. The order adopted three rules: (1) broadband providers cannot block content, (2) they can not “impair or degrade lawful internet traffic” because of it’s content and (3) providers cannot prioritize any internet traffic or content in exchange for any consideration. These rules apply to the internet if accessed through any device, whether desktop or mobile. The FCC now has authority to address issues that arise between providers and other networks and can take action if they find internet service providers’ activities are unjust or unreasonable. The FCC said these rules are necessary because providers’ economic incentives could threaten the openness of the internet, reduce speed, and inhibit internet content. The commission believes these rules will not hurt broadband providers economically and stated that companies which have already voluntarily adopted Title II rules do not expect negative financial effects. Even though broadband providers are given Title II classification, their rates will not be regulated like utilities and broadband service will still not be subject to local and state taxes under the Internet Tax Freedom Act. US President Barack Obama [official website] commended the new rules, saying [press release] the FCC’s decision “will protect innovation and create a level playing field for the next generation of entrepreneurs.”

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler proposed [JURIST report] the new regulations for open internet, also termed “net neutrality,” earlier this month. In November Barack Obama said he strongly supports [JURIST report] the concept of net neutrality, opining that the concept has been an important part of the internet since its beginning. The FCC proposed [JURIST report] net neutrality rules in 2009 to prevent Internet providers from restricting access to particular services. In 2006, the House Judiciary Committee approved [JURIST report] a net neutrality bill that would have applied federal antitrust law to alleged breaches of net neutrality, but the legislation was never approved by the full House.