FCC Adopts Net Neutrality, What Does It Mean?

The Federal Communications Commission passed a set of net neutrality rules designed to prevent Internet providers from restricting download speeds. “These new rules are guided by three principles: America’s broadband networks must be fast, fair and open, principles shared by the overwhelming majority of the nearly 4 million commenters who participated in the FCC’s Open Internet proceeding,” the FCC said in a press release. A previously passed version of net neutrality rules was shot down in a federal court in January 2014. Democrats support the concept of a fair and open Internet, while conservatives view the idea as more unnecessary regulation and an invasion of private enterprise. Supported by President Obama, Thursday’s rendition of net neutrality regulations was passed in a 3-2 vote that followed party lines.

The debate over an open and free Internet has been going on for several years, now. Dubbed the “Open Internet Order”, the measure passed Thursday prohibits providers of broadband service from blocking or slowing any lawful Internet traffic, regardless of content. The rules also outlaw the use of so-called “Internet fast lanes”, or separate, faster streams for Internet users that pay higher monthly fees for prioritization. The FCC statement announcing the Open Internet Order claims the rules will prevent Web providers from engaging in harmful practices targeting certain applications or application types. Net neutrality has been widely criticized by cable and wireless service providers, including Verizon, which called thee FCC’s action on Thursday “wholly unnecessary.” A statement from the company also said the measure would “have unintended negative consequences for consumers and various parts of the Internet ecosystem for years to come.”

What Thursday’s net neutrality rules will ultimately mean for consumers is a subject of much debate. For his part, President Obama has said he believes it will encourage innovation and level the playing field for Internet entrepreneurs. Tech mogul Mark Cuban spoke to CNBC about net neutrality on Thursday, arguing that if the Internet is to be truly open, and all bits are equal, then television networks will not be able to exist. In the end, the true impact of net neutrality rules won’t be realized for some time because countless companies will likely challenge the FCC’s right to regulate the Internet in court. Not until several years after those challenges are decided can the effects of net neutrality be examined.