Today, the FCC made two important decisions that will have a profound effect on the future of the internet.
Most widely reported is their vote to reclassify the internet as a telecommunications service under Title II of the communications act. The immediate impact is that telecoms cannot charge extra for internet “fast lanes”. All traffic must be treated equally, which is the whole point of “net neutrality”.
Title II allows regulation of prices of telecommunication services, but the FCC has explicitly promised that they will not do this for broadband service.
Also today, the FCC voted to allow public broadband providers to compete against commercial internet providers. This allows cities to provide municipal broadband networks for their citizens, and overturns a bunch of state laws banning local governments from building or owning broadband services.
Personally, as someone who makes his living from the internet, I think these two decisions are VERY good news. In my opinion, the telecoms have done a terrible job providing fast internet to US citizens. The FCC decisions are a good balance between limiting the monopoly powers of the telecoms while leaving the internet free enough to continue to innovate.
Not surprisingly, the vote at the FCC split precisely down party lines.
UPDATE: Bloomberg has a good article about the issues. Also includes a good quote from Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, who attended the FCC meeting and afterward said that the FCC action is “an indication that the people can sometimes win. This is a victory for the people, the consumers, the average Joes.” And indeed, if you look at the companies supporting the FCC decision, they are innovators like NetFlix and Twitter, while those opposed are the old-guard monopolies like AT&T, Verizon, and Comcast.