full text of its new rules to enforce so-called net neutrality Thursday. The 400-page document will be dissected by media outlets, policy advocates, and politicos over the next few days.
Don't let the size of the document cause confusion. This is not 400 pages of rules and regulations. The document includes a brief history of openness regulations, a summary of the new rules, an explanation of the new rules, arguments for why the rules are necessary, a section on the FCC's legal authority on the issue, and 80 pages of Republican dissents.
On Thursday, February 26, the FCC passed rules that would reclassify the Internet as a utility under Title II of the Communications Act of 1934. The reclassification would allow the independent commission to enforce stricter regulations on Internet service providers. The "bright-line rules" pushed by FCC Chair Tom Wheeler would:
- Ban paid prioritization. ISPs will not be able to pick winners and losers in the market by putting some companies in the "fast lane" if they pay additional fees, while sticking companies who do not or cannot pay these fees in the "slow lane."
- Ban blocking. ISPs cannot block consumers' ability to access lawful content online.
- Ban throttling. The FCC recognizes that degrading access to lawful content is just as bad as blocking it.
To be clear, these are regulations on ISPs, not the Internet.
A major concern for many who either object to Title II reclassification or are still on the fence is that broad enforcement of Title II regulations could lead to over-regulation of the market and even regulation of the Internet itself. The question then becomes what Title II regulations will be enforced, and which ones will not be enforced. According to The Verge, "more than 700 rules aren't going to be applied."
"'This includes no unbundling of last-mile facilities, no tariffing, no rate regulation, and no cost accounting rules, which results in a carefully tailored application of only those Title II provisions found to directly further the public interest in an open internet and more, better, and open broadband,' the order says. The idea that this proposal is a so-called "light touch" approach to regulation has been touted again and again, basically as a way to quell concerns from those who oppose regulation. Of course, it hasn't exactly done that, and we're still seeing plenty of complaints from the internet providers that are now having their services classified under Title II."