When Larry Page and Sergey Brin founded a fledgling company called Google back in 1998, they did not have to pay a fee to Comcast or Verizon to carry their site.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) would like to keep it that way.
That’s why the FCC voted 3-2 Thursday reclassify broadband as a public utility, allowing the FCC to regulate Internet service providers (ISPs) as public utilities. Called "net neutrality", these regulations aim to prevent ISPs from levying fees on certain Internet traffic. All Internet content must be treated equally.
This reclassification will not change anything in the short-term, because the Internet is currently free and open. The rules prevent the ISPs from tampering with the Internet in the medium- to long-term.
But some warn that the net neutrality rules will have unintended consequences.
They claim that net neutrality denies ISPs profit, which the ISPs would use to invest in their networks' infrastructure. In protecting the content producers' innovation, net neutrality rules sacrifice content deliverers' innovation.
To which net neutrality advocates respond: Comcast is innovative?!
Critics say yes. In fact, congressional Republicans proposed a weaker version of net neutrality rules that did not involve reclassification. That legislation is expected to go nowhere, as the GOP lacks the sixty Senate seats necessary to advance the legislation. Plus President Obama supports reclassification and would veto the GOP-backed plan.
But the FCC does not need Congress to institute these regulations. It reclassified ISPs using Title II of the Communications Act of 1934.
Perhaps the best chance for critics to kill net neutrality rules is in the courts. Comcast and Verizon are deep-pocketed corporations, and they are sure to sue the FCC over the regulations. After all, this debate was started because Verizon sued the FCC before and won.
What do you think? Should ISPs be required to treat all Internet traffic equally?