FCC Chairman Aims for Net Neutrality with Reclassification of Internet Under Title II

/ Feb 4, 2015

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler 2-4-15

Things are looking up for the proponents of net neutrality. Tom Wheeler, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, has proposed the reclassification of the internet under Title II, asserting that it should indeed be deemed a telecommunications service.

Wheeler’s proposal, if the FCC approves it on February 26, will prevent the creation of internet fast and slow lanes that would prioritize some online content over others. Internet service providers like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T will not be able to “throttle” (slow some content providers while speeding up others) or benefit from paid prioritization.

Overall, Wheeler’s message (which was published in Wired) is that “the internet must be fast, fair, and open.” His proposal focuses on bringing internet users optimal service and maintaining the kind of online environment that allowed for the growth of companies like AOL. Wheeler cited past FCC mandates, like “open access for network equipment in the late 1960s,” which let the internet flourish as it did, to support an open digital space today.

The chairman is not alone in his support of net neutrality. President Obama came out with a statement in November that disapproved of granting ISPs the ability to “pick winners and losers in the online marketplace.” Of course, major tech companies have been vocal about the issue, too. On September 10, the likes of Netflix, Vimeo, WordPress, Reddit, and Kickstarter took part in a “day of action” for net neutrality, placing the spinning wheel icon that indicates slow service on their sites to show what internet slow lanes would like for the average user.

Thus far, the internet’s been classified as an “information service” instead of a telecommunications service, making it difficult for the FCC to set regulations to keep it “open.”

Over the past year, the net neutrality debate has played out across ISPs like Verizon, Comcast, and AT&T and streaming service Netflix. Netflix has expressed great displeasure at paying fees to these ISPs for higher quality streaming, while the ISPs argue that Netflix accounts for mass downstream internet traffic that should require extra pay to run smoothly.

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