The Federal Communications Commission, or FCC, has approved a set of new rules on how Internet traffic is to be managed and regulated, after commissioners voted 3-2 in its favor. Many, including Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, have spoken of their delight at the ruling, with The Woz himself calling it a win for "the average Joe."
The crux of this vote, and the element that will prompt an immediate and strong backlash from ISPs, is that broadband is to be reclassified as a telecommunications service. This leaves it subject to much more regulation than it has hitherto been accustomed, and in no uncertain terms, takes a lot of the power out of their hands.
From here on in, broadband providers will not be able to block / speed up connections for a fee, and as such, won’t be able to make "paid prioritization" deals with purveyors of content. These deals make ISPs quite a bit of money, since a provider can strike an agreement with, say, a Netflix or a Hulu to move their content more quickly, but as a result of the Net Neutrality rules, paid peering is out of the window.
The ruling adds a number of other restrictions, including so-called interconnection deals, where content providers stump up a fee to broadband providers in order to connect to their networks. While not being outlawed, this will be scrutinized a lot more heavily, although the FCC will not be enforcing some aspects of the rules, such as price controls.
As Wozniak noted in interview with Bloomberg, the ruling does help to stem the tide of monopolization, although as you might imagine, ISPs are not too happy with the decision. The US Telecommunications Industry Association has already noted that broadband providers will be taking swift legal action against the new rules, as the fall-out from today’s events begins.
It’s hard to argue with the assessment that this is a victory for the people, and while the ruling is perhaps ahead of its time, the consensus throughout the tech community is that it’s a win for the Internet in general. Allowing ISPs to govern how the Internet is run, as many have been for a while with throttling and whatnot, is a dangerous road to be headed down, and while the debate continues to rage, we’d love to hear your thoughts and comments below.