Net Neutrality and the Prospect of an Open Internet

Category:  News & Politics
Friday, February 27th, 2015 at 12:35 AM
Net Neutrality and the Prospect of an Open Internet by Jim Wertz

The 3-2 vote by the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday to regulate the internet under the moniker of net neutrality is keeping proponents skeptically optimistic about the future of an open internet.

The skepticism is well deserved. Even though the appointed Democratic commissioners drove the passage of this regulation, the fact remains that FCC chairman Tom Wheeler, a former lobbyist for the cable industry, offered little evidence that he would come to the rescue of the tech community until he advanced the new regulatory policy. Wheeler was joined by Mignon Clyburn and Jessica Rosenworcel, while Republican commissioners Michael O'Rielly and Ajut Pai dissented.

The new policy reclassifies internet service providers as public utility carriers under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which was created to control the nascent telephone industry in 1934. Title II includes more than 100 pages of directives to ensure that public utility carriers act in the public interest.

The new policy will "ban blocking, ban throttling, and ban paid-prioritization fast lanes," Wheeler said at a press conference following the vote. It also includes neutrality provisions for mobile access to broadband.

Opponents of the regulation argue that it is an imposition on commercial competition that would ultimately build, expand, and innovate the internet. This is also the same coalition of corporateers who kickstarted the net neutrality debate by threatening to make broadband access a scaled proposition based on a pay to play model. Service providers could do this because they had been classified in 2002 as Title I information services – a virtually unregulated class of technology providers.

In 2002, there was minimal broadband and no one was worried about having their dial-up service throttled for underpayment. If you had a telephone line, you had internet. High speed just meant your photos didn’t stagger to full display.

Because of the Title I classification, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Verizon in 2013 when it challenged FCC attempts to regulate access to broadband. In that ruling the justices intimated that Title II would be a better regulatory framework to protect net neutrality and after several years and numerous grandstands, the change has been established.

"The action that we take today is an irrefutable reflection of the principle that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet," Wheeler said.    

 Jim Wertz can be reached via open interwebs at jWertz@ErieReader.com, and you can follow him on Twitter @jim_wertz.

Erie Reader: Vol. 7, No. 10
Now Available — Pick It Up Today

CURRENT

The day after Erie’s mayoral primary election

14-year-old Alton Northup's thinking is progressive and something worth listening to. 

Who will win, and who should win, as mayoral momentum mounts

Leader - ship

The Downtown Edinboro Art & Music Festival provides music and art for the community.

IN THIS ISSUE

Who will win, and who should win, as mayoral momentum mounts

Leader - ship

The Downtown Edinboro Art & Music Festival provides music and art for the community.

Basement Transmissions comes to the rescue amidst library renovations.

The cohesiveness of Jensen & Three Sharks is on full display on this debut album. 

Edinboro’s Happy Mug Coffee stirs up warm feelings.

Freedom to be screwed

Signals Midwest grace the stage of Basement Transmissions again, but at its new location. 

Can you visit more than 15 Erie art locations in three hours during Erie Art Museum’s next Gallery Night?

Country music superstar and all-around national treasure Willie Nelson continues to make great music