Source: Flickr user MoneyBlogNewz
Big news for the Internet today — the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to enforce net neutrality, which should go into effect two to three months from now.
What the heck does that mean? For starters, net neutrality is the idea of an open Internet with websites treated equally by Internet service providers (ISPs). Without net neutrality, the online community is worried providers like Comcast, Time Warner, etc. would give preference and faster loading times to sites they have vested stakes in, like those they own or ones that pay to give customers faster site loads.
The new ruling also reclassifies broadband services as utilities under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, regulating them like a phone service and investigating complaints where necessary. "We cannot have gatekeepers who tell us what we can and cannot do and where we can and cannot go online," FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said at today's ruling. "And we do not need blocking, throttling, and paid prioritization schemes that undermine the Internet as we know it."
That's big news for Internet users across the country! But net neutrality is a complicated issue, so here's what you need to know about how it could affect how you browse cat GIFs or stream TV shows.
- Throttling of content will be banned — Sure, Netflix and other streaming services use a lot of bandwidth, but with broadband service classified as a public utility, ISPs will not be allowed to give preference to sites that use less data or create a system with paid content "fast lanes." In a proposal submitted a few weeks ago, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote, "These. . . . rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services." Binge-watching for all!
- Mobile Internet protection is included — The FCC will include broadband wireless Internet use into this reclassification of Internet. That means wherever you access the web the most — be it on your phone, tablet, or at a desktop computer — will fall into the new FCC regulations.
- FCC stays out of Internet pricing — Which is good for companies like Comcast. Though ISPs will be treated as utilities companies, they won't face additional government taxes like most other utilities, hopefully keeping prices competitive.
- The president is on net neutrality's side
Source: Tumblr user White House
President Barack Obama has even chimed in on his support of net neutrality, posting a YouTube video last November pleading for both the public and the FCC to show their support for an open Internet. It should be noted, though, that since the FCC is an independent agency, both the commander in chief and Congress have no legal way to make net neutrality law of the land.
- Expect a court battle — Wireless companies including Verizon, AT&T, and T-Mobile have already said they'd take the government to court should net neutrality be approved. Verizon previously said that changes to Title II "threaten great harm to an open Internet, competition, and innovation." But look for content-creating sites like Tumblr, which even has a site dedicated to "save the Internet," to continue to rally their users around an open Internet system.
Over four million public comments were made last Fall to the FCC after popular sites including Netflix and Tumblr brought the free Internet battle mainstream with Internet Slowdown Day and pictures of the dreaded spinning wheel of death as a protest of what could happen should net neutrality fail. So although you can count on a back and forth between telecommunications companies and government regulators for a long time to come, this is a huge win for net neutrality and a more open, fast, and fair Internet.