FCC votes to regulate net neutrality

The move is meant to keep websites from discriminating against Internet providers and other websites.

After the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 in favor of regulations regarding net neutrality, rumors of the rules’ implications have spread rapidly.

The goal of net neutrality is to require Internet service providers to maintain unfiltered access to all legal websites and to prevent companies from discriminating against Internet services and other online content.

The act has drawn some criticism as it more rigorously regulates fixed broadband Internet service providers while leaving wireless providers with more freedom to block websites or charge customers for visiting certain websites.

Because websites like Netflix and Hulu require massive bandwidth for their streaming videos, Internet service providers (who have paid for infrastructure to increase bandwidth) would like to charge more for access to those sites.

“We have invested tens of billions of dollars building innovative and dynamic wireline and wireless broadband networks that provide abundant capacity to our customers,” Tom Tauke, Verizon Executive Vice President of Public Affairs said in a statement.

The problem is ISPs are at a conflict of interest because Netflix and Hulu aren’t just websites; they’re competitors to other services many ISPs offer.

One of the FCC regulations declared ISPs cannot block access to lawful websites and other companies’ services that compete with their own, including telephone services like Skype or video services like Netflix.

Another rule bans “unreasonable discrimination” and gives responsibility to the FCC to deem discrimination reasonable or unreasonable.

It is not clear how the rule will play out in courts, but it is possible ISPs will be allowed to charge massive bandwidth sites like Netflix more for their content. In other words, it may come to pass that the Internet will no longer be a one-price-for-all with regards to content.

Rumors of “paid prioritization” where websites could pay their way onto a “fast lane” so their users would experience faster connectivity have been prevalent. But the FCC said paid prioritization would certainly qualify as unreasonable discrimination.

The commission said in a statement, "A commercial arrangement between a broadband provider and a third party to directly or indirectly favor some traffic over other traffic in the connection to a subscriber of the broadband provider (i.e., 'pay for priority') would raise significant cause for concern."

Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo. spokesperson Laura Myron said net neutrality is important to maintain so consumers are allowed equal access to company’s websites and services.

“Our office is currently reviewing the rules issued by the FCC, and as a member of the Senate Commerce Committee, Senator McCaskill will be keeping a close eye on the implementation of the rules to ensure that the Internet remains accessible and open to consumers,” Myron said.

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