By a 3-2 vote Thursday, the Federal Communications Commission has begun proceedings to adopt a new set of rules designed to give regulators greater authority in mandating how broadband Internet services can be classified and delivered by service providers.
“There are three simple keys to our broadband future,” said FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler in a public statement Thursday [PDF]. “Broadband networks must be fast. Broadband networks must be fair. Broadband networks must be open.”
Democrats on the Commission voted to follow President Obama’s suggestions on the net neutrality issue last November. On a party line vote, the FCC is ordering that broadband Internet service will be treated as a telecommunications service rather than an information service, as the law presently defines those terms.
That change in classification would, at least theoretically, permit the FCC to enforce mandates on how ISPs deliver broadband Internet service to their customers, as well as what measures ISPs will not be allowed to take to manage that service.
Under the terms of the Telecommunications Act of 1934, as amended in 1996, the FCC’s authority to determine so-called common carrier requirements only apply to telecommunications services such as long distance telephone.
After the FCC ordered Verizon to stop using unreasonable network management techniques deemed unfair to customers, a federal appeals court ruled in January 2014 that it could not apply Title II regulations to what the FCC had already classified a Title I service.