In a major victory to citizens worldwide, the Federal Communications Commission just announced that they will reclassify the Internet as a utility. This gives the FCC the power to enforce rules on how the internet works, specifically it allows them to ban slowing down any services on the internet.
The change will place bans on blocking services, throttling services, or creating "fast lanes" for services that pay a premium. It is in response to major events over the last few years that have led to a need for legislation or regulatory change.
Some of the more visible events have been: Netflix has been bullied into peering agreements with Comcast and Verizon, Comcast has been caught blocking the Bittorrent protocol, multiple cellular carriers have throttled and blocked streaming content, data caps have led to throttling of content, and finally the one that impacts VikingVPN directly: Some ISPs have throttled OpenVPN services. It will be interesting to see how much our speed-related support tickets drop inside of the United States.
The change will make this practice illegal and subject the offending party to large fines.
Tom Wheeler made a speech before the decision was revealed, which said:
The Internet -- The Internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet. It's simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field. Think about it. The Internet has replaced the functions of the telephone and the post office. The internet has redefined commerce, and as the outpouring from 4 million Americans has demonstrated, the Internet is the ultimate vehicle for free expression. The internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules. [APPLAUSE] So let's address an important issue head-on. This proposal has been described by one opponent as, quote, 'A SECRET PLAN TO REGULATE THE INTERNET.' NONSENSE! THIS IS NO MORE A PLAN TO REGULATE THE INTERNET THAN THE FIRST AMENDMENT IS A PLAN TO REGULATE FREE SPEECH. [APPLAUSE] They both stand for the same concepts: Openness, expression, and an absence of gatekeepers telling people what they can do, where they can go and what they can think. The action that we take today is about the protection of internet openness.
-Tom Wheeler, February 26, 2015
The fight is not completely over as now the cable/telecom lobby will move to Congress to try to pass laws to neuter the FCC's ability to regulate the internet. Opponents like Senator Ted Cruz have repeatedly said completely ignorant statements like:
"Net Neutrality is Obamacare for the Internet"
"Today the FCC votes on 332-pages of regulations no one has read because they've been kept secret from the public.
They literally have to pass it so we can find out what's in it. But don't worry because when President Obama says "if you like your plan, you can keep it," you can trust him on that, right?"
This comment should be enraging to Americans, as the only thing keeping the FCC from releasing the net neutrality rules are the two Republican commissioners on the FCC. They have to submit their edits and comments and refuse to do so, delaying the release of the new rules. So essentially the Republicans are complaining that the public can't read the rules, while being the ones responsible for blocking the rules from being public.
And these statements don't even get at the core issue, that net neutrality regulation is what keeps everyone honest. All it does is not allow any provider to prefer one service over another. This has nothing to do with the scare tactics that are being presented. It is all about shilling for corporate donors. The internet providers have ample reason to dislike net neutrality, as their stranglehold on users in the US allows them to create captive markets that they can exploit for even greater profits.
It is now up to congress and likely the US Supreme Court to decide the ultimate fate of net neutrality. Do not let fake arguments get in the way of what net neutrality really is, freedom of the internet.