The Federal Communications Commission has voted 3-2 to accept new regulations for a free and open Internet. The vote marked a major milestone for net neutrality, the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated equally.
Under the new regulations, the FCC will reclassify the Internet as a “common carrier” under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The reclassification will give the FCC authority to regulate Internet service providers in order to prohibit “fast lanes” for companies who pay more for quicker distribution of their content.
The upshot for authors? As we wrote in a statement supporting the new rules last week:
Authors have a greater stake than ever in ensuring an online environment that doesn’t favor the delivery of certain works at the expense of others. . . . New delivery systems are emerging and will continue to emerge. So we continue to advocate for an ecosystem in which author websites, blogs, independent publishers, and startups yet to be imagined will be able to operate without the risk of being stalled, sidelined, or crowded out by companies with deeper pockets.
But the debate’s not over yet. Politically, the issue has taken on a partisan tenor since President Obama asked the FCC in November to pass stronger net neutrality regulations to prevent deep-pocketed communications companies from acting as information “gatekeepers.” House Republicans proposed scaling back the FCC’s regulatory authority to undermine its effectiveness, but recently appeared to concede the debate.
In the absence of legislative opposition, however, major Internet providers may continue their battle in court.