The FCC on Feb. 26 voted 3-2 in favor of new net neutrality regulations that would treat broadband as a public utility under Title II of the Communications Act. The new regulations ban companies from being able to pay for faster access to consumers in a practice known as paid prioritization or "fast lanes."
I am incredibly proud of the process the Commission has run in developing today's historic open Internet protections. I say that not just as the head of this agency, but as a U.S. citizen. Today's Open Internet Order is a shining example of American democracy at work.
– Tom Wheeler FCC Chairman
In a statement released after the vote, Wheeler said there were three keys to "our broadband future": networks must be fast, fair, and open.
President Obama after the vote thanked the more than 4 million people who contacted the FCC in support of net neutrality, saying that "calling for change" is the "backbone of our democracy." Obama in Nov. 2014 urged the FCC to regulate broadband like a public utility.
Several broadband providers, including AT&T and Verizon, quickly criticized the FCC's decision. Verizon claimed the FCC was imposing regulations "that were written in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph." Three days before the vote, Comcast said it didn't believe regulating broadband like a public utility was "the right answer."
Comcast, Cablevision, Charter execs have mixed reactions to net neutrality vote
Using [Title II], I am submitting to my colleagues the strongest open internet protections ever proposed by the FCC… 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.
– Tom Wheeler FCC Chairman
Wheeler in February defended regulating broadband like a public utility, claiming it was the only way to ensure that the Internet remained "an open platform for innovation and free expression."
President Obama's asking the FCC to keep the Internet open and free
The FCC first voted to move forward with formulating net neutrality rules in May 2014. Chairman Tom Wheeler said in November 2014 that the agency had taken so long to formulate the rules because "the big dogs are going to sue."
F.C.C. Chairman Says Agency Will Not Rush Net Neutrality Rules
The FCC first implemented net neutrality rules in late 2010, but it was quickly sued by Verizon to prevent their imposition. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Jan. 2014 that the agency did not have the regulatory authority to implement net neutrality rules as they were then written.
A Progressive Policy Institute study released in December 2014 suggests that consumers may pay an extra $84 per year if broadband providers are regulated like public utilities. This is because broadband providers could be forced to contribute to state and federal programs that seek to ensure access to telecommunication services.
Study: Strong net neutrality rules could cost you $84 a year or more in new fees