FCC rules on net neutrality: Internet remains 'open'

The Federal Communications Commission ruled Thursday on the question of net neutrality, saying the Internet will remain an open, public utility. 

The action represents “the government's most aggressive attempt to make sure the Web remains a level playing field,” the Washington Post reports.

“The rules would dramatically expand the agency's oversight of the country's high-speed broadband providers, regulating them like a public utility. They were adopted by a 3-to-2 margin with the commission's Republican members voting against them.

Under the rules, it will be illegal for companies such as Verizon or Cox Communications to slow down streaming videos, games and other online content traveling over their networks. They also will be prohibited from establishing ‘fast lanes’ that speed up access to Web sites that pay an extra fee. And in an unprecedented move, the FCC could apply the rules to wireless carriers, such as T-Mobile and Sprint, in a nod to the rapid rise of smartphones and the mobile Internet."

In a press release, Bishop John C. Wester of Salt Lake City, chair of the Communications Committee of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB), said, “The Internet is a critical medium for religious speech. Radio, broadcast television and cable television are, in large part, closed to noncommercial religious messages.”

“From the inception of the Internet until the mid-2000s, Internet service providers were not permitted to discriminate or tamper with what was said over those Internet connections,” he said. “Today, the FCC restores this protection for speakers, protection particularly important to noncommercial religious speakers.”

“This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech,’ FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has said. ‘They both stand for the same concept: openness, expression and an absence of gatekeepers telling them what they can do, where they can go and what they can think.”

[Vinnie Rotondaro is NCR national correspondent. His email address is vrotondaro@ncronline.org.]

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