FCC Chair wants to classify Internet as a utility, favoring net neutrality

Global Business

There is currently no such thing as net neutrality in the United States, but the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which is responsible for regulating the cable and telecom industries, has just proposed changes that are seen as a big win for advocates of a fair Internet. CCTV America’s Karina Huber reported this story from New York.

Just a year ago, advocates for net neutrality — the principle that Internet service providers in the United States must provide equal access to content — had given up hope. Now, they are celebrating.

The chairman of the Federal Communications Commission has proposed reclassifying high-speed Internet service as a utility instead of an information service.

“The FCC is saying that Internet service is a common carrier and that’s a business that provides a service that’s so essential to society as a whole or to the rest of the economy that it needs to be held to a higher standard than other businesses,” said Evan Leatherwood, Slifka Fellow at Fordham University.

It also means that Internet service providers will not be allowed to speed up or slow down access to certain websites or deny service to anybody.

In an opinion piece for Wired magazine, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler wrote: “My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.”

Leatherwood, who specializes in media and public policy, said the decision is an about-face for a former lobbyist for the cable industry.

“Chairman Wheeler has changed his mind, given the massive amount of public support for net neutrality, given the public support of the president and even growing support among Republicans who have traditionally opposed this issue,” Leatherwood said.

In November, U.S. President Barack Obama came out in favor of net neutrality and roughly four million public comments were generated on the issue last year, a record for FCC proceedings.

But telecom and cable companies said the new regulation will impede innovation and investment. In the past, the industry has challenged the legality of net neutrality and won. They are vowing to continue their fight.

“The telecom companies are going to fight this. It’s in their best interest to fight this. They have every right to do so. They’re going to be on much weaker footing,” Leatherwood said.

The FCC is expected to vote on the Chairman’s proposal in three weeks and it will likely pass. But the future of net neutrality is far from certain as Congress could decide to make changes to the Telecommunications Act that could strip the FCC of some of its powers when it comes to regulating high speed Internet.

FCC Chair wants to classify Internet as a utility, favoring net neutrality

There is currently no such thing as net neutrality in the United States, but the U.S. Federal Communications Commission, which is responsible for regulating the cable and telecom industries, has just proposed changes that are seen as a big win for advocates of a fair Internet. CCTV America's Karina Huber reported this story from New York.


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