BY: OLIVIA VARNSON
(Gainesville, Ga.)—The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted 3-2 in favor of the Open Internet Order on Feb. 26. Proposed by FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the Open Internet Order represents a victory to many advocates of net neutrality.
Net neutrality concerns the accessibility of an open Internet. Internet service providers (ISPs) have the potential to control the information their users access and create on the web. One method of control would be to separate their broadband into fast and slow lanes. Users who are willing and able to pay a larger fee would be able to use fast lanes, while those who cannot afford the fast lane would be subject to slower service.
According to those in opposition of this method, slower internet service could prevent users from accessing websites. For many, social media outlets represent a platform for the spread of information that is sometimes missing from major news networks. Supporters of net neutrality hope to protect those platforms by preventing ISPs from prioritizing their users.
Under the new rules of the Open Internet Order, following Title II of the 1996 Telecommunications Act, the FCC reclassified broadband as a utility rather than an information service. This reclassification will allow the FCC to ban paid prioritization.
There are many who are not in favor of this decision, however. Marsha Blackburn, a Republican representative of Tennessee has filed the “Internet Freedom Act” in the hopes of overturning the reclassification. To Blackburn, the FCC’s new approach will, “stifle innovation, restrict freedoms and lead to billions of dollars in new fees and taxes,” via Blackburn’s official website. In the past, Blackburn has received support from Comcast and Verizon. Her “Internet Freedom Act” also has 31 cosponsors, according to congress.gov. Blackburn and fellow supporters are concerned that the current rules give the federal government too much power in the regulation of the Internet.
It is to be expected that the FCC receive strong opposition from members of Congress and ISP companies alike. It seems that on both sides of the issue of net neutrality, citizens are concerned with where the power to regulate the internet should rest. Given how essential access to the internet has become to our daily lives, this power struggle will continue alongside the evolution of technology and how we use it.