Mar 07 2015

FCC Passes Net Neutrality Rules

It’s only been a little more than a year since Verizon Wireless defeated the FCC in DC Circuit Court. That ruling–that the FCC had no authority to enforce its “open-internet” or Network Neutrality Rules–was a serious blow to innovators, independent journalists and researchers, and the internet community as a whole. The event seemed like an omen of what was to come, civil liberties groups like the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation raised the alarm and launched campaigns to educate and rally the American people. In response telecommunications giants like AT&T, Verizon Wireless, and Comcast launched their own campaigns and made vague threats about suspending investment in America’s internet infrastructure if they didn’t get their way.
In April of 2014 the looming clouds were at their darkest when the FCC reversed its prior stance on Net Neutrality and proposed to grant Internet Service Providers the right to block content, throttle connection speeds, and charge higher rates for faster service. Google, Facebook, and many other big players in the internet/tech industry wrote an open letter to the FCC expressing concern and calling for an open internet.  For the first time, the topic was prominently featured and even discussed in mainstream media channels, albeit often erroneously.  Bloggers and independent media sources did a better job of explaining to the public what Net Neutrality is and why it matters.

Finally, almost two weeks ago now, the FCC voted to reclassify internet service under what is referred to as “Common Carrier” rules, which are spelled out in Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.  The move is widely considered an important and promising step in the right direction and a victory for proponents of freedoms of speech, communication, and access to information.  The servers, physical networks, and billions of connected devices in the United States are a significant part of the fabric of the internet and the FCC’s decision will likely have a major impact on the entire world as a result.

Before we lower the flag and say the fight is over however, its worth noting that several telecommunications corporations and interest groups have vowed to sue the FCC and challenge the new rules, at this point it is unclear how much of a threat these suits may pose if/when they are filed.  There are also concerns about some of the language and the general complexity of the 300-page document, however in general sentiment seems to be positive from the Open Internet movement’s biggest players, with the Electronic Frontier Foundation calling it a “big win”.

This article was scraped together by Spencer Holmes, a technology researcher involved with Occupy Bellingham.  



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