In 2014, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of Verizon v. FCC stating that existing FCC rules did not support open network management practices. The FCC used this opportunity to re-assess active rules regarding the internet that were put in place in 2010- The result was a 3-2 decision to reclassify internet service as Title II in 2015, putting it in the same category as other utilities such as telephone and power. The FCC enacted forbearance in this decision, discarding 700+ rules that would be included in a title II designation for the internet, things such as price fixing and taxing were considered inapplicable to internet services and were so ignored - this in effect would limit the FCC's ability to regulate the internet beyond net neutrality. The goal of the designation was "light-touch" regulation that would give the FCC authority to combat 3 specific strategies employed by internet service providers:
- Blocking Content: the ability of a service provider to choose what content their customers can see.
- Throttling: the ability of a service provider to degrade connection speeds to specific content.
- Paid-Prioritization: the ability to offer businesses access to "fast-lanes" or paid-for preferential treatment.
The FCC considered fighting these 3 things to be in the public's interest. The specific wording in title II that is referenced:
"It shall be unlawful for any common carrier to make any unjust or unreasonable discrimination in charges, practices, classifications, regulations, facilities or services for or in connection with like communication service, directly or indirectly, by any means or device, or to make or give any undue or unreasonable preference or advantage to any particular person, class of persons or locality, or to subject any particular person, class of persons or locality to any undue or unreasonable prejudice or disadvantage."
The 2015 decision and subsequent debate has taken center stage as the new FCC chairman, and former Verizon counsel, Ajit Pai is moving to rollback the title II designation. We have all suddenly been put in a position to determine how the internet will look in the future. It might help to know how the internet works:
Should net neutrality be federally mandated? Or should it be left to the free market? Between corporations and the government, who is the greater paragon of public interests?
If you're interested in the topic there are many great resources online:
The FCC is scheduled to repeal net neutrality in December, at which point it will almost assuredly appear in a court battle. Whatever your opinion is, make sure your representatives in congress know it.