Be sure to thank a certain funny Brit today, because the Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 to classify broadband Internet as a public utility.
The Thursday morning vote is a huge win for net neutrality, which advocates for free and open access to the Internet. The principle is fiercely opposed by telecom companies and Internet service providers. They want to be able to charge for different types of Internet access, particularly for users, sites and content that put a greater demand on networks, like Netflix and other video streaming services.
After today's vote, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said that reclassifying broadband as a public utility will ensure "that no one — whether government or corporate — should control free open access to the Internet," according to NPR.
Last summer, Wheeler was on record to be against the reclassification, but a high profile customer service call published online by a Comcast subscriber and a segment from John Oliver's Last Week Tonight, brought the issue to the national forefront, prompting Wheeler to change sides on the debate.
Following the tide of public opinion that favored net neutrality, President Barack Obama went on record as being in favor for the reclassification of broadband. The FCC, however, is an independent body, so it was up to agency's five commissioners to make that decision. The vote fell along party lines, with Republicans Michael O'Reilly and Ajut Pai siding with Internet providers.
"The FCC has delivered a powerful one-two punch for Internet users and for the kind of open, robust debate that is vital to a successful democracy," said Common Cause President Miles Rapoport in a statement. "Thanks to today’s action on net neutrality, candidates of every party and advocates of every cause can be assured of equal access to our electronic town square. And because the commission has moved to protect the development of community-owned broadband networks, commercial Internet service providers have a powerful new incentive to offer fast, reliable service at a reasonable cost.
Support Local Journalism. Join the San Antonio Current Press Club
Local journalism is information. Information is power. And we believe everyone deserves access to accurate independent coverage of their community and state. Our readers helped us continue this coverage in 2020, and we are so grateful for the support.
Help us keep this coverage going in 2021. Whether it's a one-time acknowledgement of this article or an ongoing membership pledge, your support goes to local-based reporting from our small but mighty team.