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Net Neutrality: FCC Votes to Keep Internet ‘Fast, Fair and Open’

“No one…should control free and open access to the Internet,” says FCC chairman

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FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler speaks during an open meeting to vote on Internet regulations in Washington, D.C.

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The FCC has officially voted in favor of “net neutrality,” setting new rules to keep broadband Internet in the United States “fast, fair and open.” The hotly debated resolution, which USA Today reports took place in front of a standing room-only crowd, passed three to two.

“No one…should control free and open access to the Internet,” FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said. “It’s the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet. The Internet is too important to allow broadband providers to make the rules.”

NPR reports Wheeler exclaimed, “Today is a red-letter day.”

A statement from the FCC described the new measures as “sustainable rules of the road.” Among other updates, the new provisions to the government organization’s Open Internet Order prevent service providers from blocking access to legal content, applications, services and non-harmful devices. It stops broadband providers from throttling upload and download speeds with regard to content, apps and services (e.g., Netflix and Spotify). And it has deemed it illegal for providers to prioritize traffic to companies they have deals with.

The new rules, which update ones from 2008 that were later overturned by a U.S. Court of Appeals in 2013, help protect free expression online and the FCC hopes they will promote investment in broadband networks. They also classify Internet as a public utility, similar to phone service. The organization detailed all of the changes, including technical specifications, in a press release on its website.

President Barack Obama applauded the decision in an open letter. “Today’s FCC decision will protect innovation and create a level playing field for the next generation of entrepreneurs – and it wouldn’t have happened without Americans like you,” he wrote. “More than 4 million people wrote in to the FCC, overwhelmingly in support of a free and fair Internet. Countless others spoke out on social media, petitioned their government, and stood up for what they believe.”

Not everyone was excited about the new rules, though. “I am sorry to the staff members that were forced to prepare a half-baked, illogical, internally inconsistent and indefensible document,” FCC commissioner Mike O’Rielly said in a statement, via Slate. “For an institution that prides itself on quality of work and legal and technical expertise, this document is anything but.”

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