Feb 26, 2015 - 2:00pm

FCC Will Treat 21st Century Internet Like 20th Century Phone System

Senior Editor, Digital Content

Well, we finally know what are the details in FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler’s plan to regulate the Internet.

And also as expected, it’s not pretty.

The FCC decided to look backward, not forward, by treating the Internet, the wellspring of 21st Century innovation, like the 20th Century phone network.

The FCC voted 3-2 to reclassify Internet access as a telecommunications service and impose net neutrality regulations, Fox News reports:

On its surface, the plan is aimed at barring providers from creating paid "fast lanes" on the Internet, which consumer advocates and Internet companies worry would edge out cash-strapped startups and smaller Internet-based businesses. Chairman Tom Wheeler said it would ensure an "open, unfettered network."

But the rules, more broadly, would put the Internet in the same regulatory camp as the telephone by classifying it like a public utility, meaning they'd have to act in the "public interest" when providing a mobile connection to your home or phone.

Bill Kovacs, U.S. Chamber Senior Vice President for the Environment, Technology, & Regulatory Affairs, strongly disagreed with the FCC’s action, calling it “a bad solution to a problem that doesn’t exist”:

Today’s action by the FCC will plunge the industry into years of litigation and cause extreme regulatory and market uncertainty.

Applying 80 year-old rules designed for telephone monopolies to broadband just doesn’t make sense. It upends nearly two decades of bipartisan support for regulating the Internet with a light-touch.

FCC Commisioner Ajit Pai who voted against the regulations, said, "The Internet is not broken. There is no problem for the government to solve.”

Nevertheless, we’ll witness years of litigation as federal courts sort this out. At risk is the vibrant innovation and entrepreneurship we’ve seen as the Internet has become ubiquitous in our lives and economy.


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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.