As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed new net neutrality regulations today on a vote of 3-2, with the Commission’s two Democratic appointees joining Chairman Tom Wheeler in voting yes. The Commission’s two Republican-appointed members both voted no.
Notably, the FCC’s plan is now known to have undergone a last-minute revision to remove a potential weakness in its formation, pointed out by Google, that might have allowed for some paid prioritization. If you were curious about Google’s take on net neutrality, that fact should settle the question.
The CEO of Etsy, an online marketplace, spoke before the commission voted to “applaud” the FCC for putting into place “bright line” rules, and “voting to protect the Internet.”
Up first from the commission, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in her remarks that the “framers” of America “would be pleased” with the FCC’s plan. The commissioner went on to call today’s vote the FCC’s “third bite at the apple.” Clyburn also disclosed, as was previously reported, that she had helped shape part of the order, and also listed a number of changes she would have preferred to see in the order itself. The commissioner wrapped by arguing that individuals who are worried about rate regulation are worrying unnecessarily.
Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel argued that the United States’ “Internet economy is the envy of the world. We invented it. The app economy began right here on our shores.” She went on to call the Internet “our printing press” and “our town square.”
The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
Rosenworcel also called attention to the massive outpouring of public response to net neutrality: “Four million Americans wrote to this agency…Whatever our disagreements are on net neutrality, I hope we agree that this is democracy in action and something we can all support.”
Commissioner Ajit Pai said that it was “sad to witness” the FCC replacing Internet freedom with “government control.” Pai continued, saying that the FCC only voted on the rules that it did due to intrusion into the agency’s processes by President Barack Obama.
Pai was typically terse: “The plan is not a solution to a problem,” he said, going on to call the plan itself “the problem.”
Commissioner Michael O’Reilly criticized the proposal to reverse Title II: “I see no need for net neutrality rules. I am far more troubled the commission is charting for Title II.” He continued, calling the move a “monumental and unlawful power grab.”
O’Reilly then called the forbearance of certain Title II provisions “fauxbearance.”
“No one, whether government or corporate, should control free and open access to the Internet,” Chairman Wheeler said. “The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules.” He then said it was nonsense that this was a secret plan to regulate the Internet. “This plan is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech,” he said.
Legal action in response to the new rules is expected. Chairman Wheeler decided to invoke Title II to reclassify broadband service, something that has long been anathema to ISPs. So, while this vote was important, the life of net neutrality is not yet safe. Congress has agitated against the FCC’s plan in recent weeks.
This story is developing.