Well done, Team Internet. After a year of intense activism, we may have finally convinced the Federal Communications Commission to change course and craft clear, bright-line rules to protect the open internet, based on legal authority that will actually survive the inevitable legal challenge.
According to an op-ed published today in Wired, in a few weeks the FCC will vote on new rules that start with one crucial step: reversing the FCC’s 2002 decision to treat broadband as an “information service” rather than a “telecommunications service.” This is what’s known as Title II reclassification. According to the highest court to review the question, the rules that we need to preserve the open internet — such as forbidding discrimination against certain applications — require the FCC to treat access providers like “common carriers, ” treatment that can only be applied to telecommunications services. Having chosen to define broadband as an “information service,” the FCC can impose regulations that “promote competition” (good) but it cannot stop providers from giving their friends special access to Internet users (bad). Nonetheless, in May of last year the FCC was still trying to stick with its original decision and, as a result, proposed rules that would actually have undermined the open internet. Millions of internet users spoke out against those rules and called for reclassification. Today, we know our voices were heard.