Congratulations, citizens of the Internet – and America, too, of course – you’ve won the war for Net Neutrality. According to The New York Times, senior Republicans in Washington have decided to cede the issue, making way for the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to approve the reclassification of the Internet as a public utility on Thursday.
If the FCC plan indeed moves forward, the government will once again have the power to enforce an open Internet. (That power was stripped by a court in 2014.) This will effectively ban the paid prioritization of content (also known as “fast lanes”) for both mobile and landline subscribers. New regulations would also ban throttling, or the intentional slowing of service by ISPs looking to extort money from content providers. The latter became an issue last year when Comcast, Verizon and a number of other gatekeepers decided to significantly slow Netflix speeds until the streaming video provider agreed to make special payments to them.
Republicans in Washington had sought to block net neutrality, arguing the regulation of the Internet would put too much power in the hands of the federal government. Last minute attempts to stop net neutrality fell short, however, when Democrats refused to negotiate legislation with Republicans until after the FCC makes an official ruling on Thursday. “We’re not going to get a signed bill that doesn’t have Democrats’ support,” says Sen. John Thune (R-SD), chairman of the Senate Commerce Committee. “This is an issue that needs bipartisan support.”
Many companies and organizations operating in the tech industry lauded the news. “We’ve been outspent, outlobbied (by the cable industry). We were going up against the second-biggest corporate lobby in D.C., and it looks like we’ve won,” said Dave Steer, director of advocacy for the non-profit Mozilla Foundation. “A year ago today, we did not think we would be in this spot.”
With the final hurdle to net neutrality removed in Washington, the bulk of opposition is now coming from the cable and telecom industry itself. AT&T CEO Randall Stephenson recently told CNBC that "there will be litigation" if the FCC moves forward with its net neutrality plan.
Hands on laptop via Shutterstock]