News that the Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Tom Wheeler, announced a U-turn to reclassify broadband under Title 2 of the Telecommunications Act, broke late last week but an 11th hour request by House Republicans pointing the finger at the Obama Administration for holding sway on the FCC came to light today.
Net Neutrality is the principle that all channels connected to the Internet and all information passed across these channels is done on a level playing field. The removal of Net Neutrality, for example, by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) adding ‘last-mile’ roadblocks could effectively control the previously free flow of information to and from Internet users around the world. Although the idea has been debated in countries around the world, discussions in the US have been the most publicised and extensive.
The Obama Administration has been particularly vocal on showing support for the continued protection of Net Neutrality and has urged the FCC to offer further support – see Barack Obama’s personal message on the issue here. Support for Net Neutrality has grown substantially over the last 18 months, with the movement now being backed by technology industry greats such as Steve Wosniak – co-founder of Apple – Laurence Lessig and Tim Berners-Lee.
So why is Net Neutrality important? It promotes free speech and transparency, removing the filtering or censorship of information. Without it, the principles on which the Internet was founded – by Professor Tim Berners-Lee back in 1990; openness, accessibility and a level playing field for all, will be lost.
Over the last several months, widespread debate on the issue, and indeed legality, of Net Neutrality, from articles in all world leading newspapers, to discussions held on Reddit and in the real world, culminated in over 4 million comments and signatures on a FCC page about Net Neutrality. It seems the wave of progress has shifted towards siding with vast swaths of the public and public opinion; Tom Wheeler, the FFC Chairman, yesterday wrote an op-ed piece for WIRED magazine pushing for the ‘strongest open internet protections ever’.
What will happen for Net Neutrality now? Wheeler will send his report to the regulator’s commission before a critical and landmark vote on the 27th February, if the vote passes it will result in the biggest shake-up in the US telecommunications industry since the Bush Administration – but the fight is not yet over. Expect to see massive fallout from the GOP and ramped-up, intensive lobbying from the cable companies with substantial markets in the US over the coming weeks, leading up to the 27th.
To find out more about Net Neutrality and how it can affect you, visit the FCC Open Internet page here.
If you would like to make a comment about the protection of the Internet, visit the dedicated FCC page here.
To find your House representative, please visit Find Your Representative.