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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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FCC to vote on broad net neutrality protection

The Internet’s future lies in net neutrality secured by robust government regulation, if Federal Communications Chairman Tom Wheeler is able to put his latest plan into action.
Wheeler announced Wednesday through a WIRED op-ed a proposal for a strong open Internet rule by reclassifying broadband Internet access service — which is any service users get from cable, phone and wireless providers — as a public utility rather than as an information service.
The FCC — the government agency in charge of regulating communications by radio, television, wire, satellite and cable — will vote on the proposal Feb. 26.
In the proposal, Wheeler states plans to switch the Internet’s classification away from Title I of the Communications Act of 1934 and into Title II, where it would be allowed to be regulated, securing net neutrality.
Net neutrality — the principle that Internet service providers should be treated equally and should not be able to charge different prices based on the user, content, site, platform or other factors — can be explained like a highway system when compared to a toll road, said Texas A&M School of Law professor Brian Holland.
“So, you have the free highway that everyone can go on but it’s more crowded and moves more slowly and you have the toll road that runs up the middle and you pay to be on that and it moves much more quickly,” Holland said. “So essentially they want to have a system in which they can charge more for faster transmission.”
Wheeler said his proposal would create enforceable rules that will ban these Internet “toll roads” and prevent providers from discriminating against any content or services for profit.
“My proposal assures the rights of Internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission,” Wheeler said in his op-ed.
With the change, Wheeler said he is trying to tailor the regulations to better fit the 21st century.
Holland said in 2010 the FCC issued a rule that said providers are not allowed to discriminate between traffic and charge more for certain data in an attempt to secure net neutrality, but they did so under Section 706 of Title I.
“And this was challenged by the Internet providers and cable providers, and basically the court ruled that if [the FCC is] going to regulate the Internet under Title I as information services, Title I basically does not give [the FCC] the power to have that anti-discrimination rule,” Holland said.
Holland said the FCC has been faced with a difficult proposition: it can either come up with some authority under Title I other than Section 706, or Congress has to give it additional authority under Title I. Holland said both are unlikely, because there is nothing in Title I in which to find more authority and the Republican-controlled Congress tends to oppose net neutrality rules.
This led people in favor of federally protected net neutrality to push for the FCC to reclassify the Internet under Title II, Holland said.
“Basically people became very worried this discrimination was going to start. The cable companies made it clear they wanted to start discriminating and charging more to some data,” Holland said. “People got upset about this and there was a public campaign to reclassify the Internet from information services under Title I to communication systems under Title II.”
James Cho, communication doctoral student, said many people who were in favor of net neutrality see Wheeler’s proposal as a positive step.
“It was a classification of the Internet as a public utility,” Cho said. “So what that means is now it’s categorized similarly as water and electricity and stuff like that, and in terms of legal speak it categorizes it in a place where it’s regulation is going to be similar to the way water and electricity are regulated.”
Holland said he likes the policy changes Wheeler proposed. However, he said he is concerned the new classification could mean the federal government will be positioned to regulate the Internet beyond just net neutrality.
“There is no middle ground in his proposal,” Holland said. “And I think it caught a lot of people off guard. I personally from my view of policy am very happy where he’s come down. I remain concerned on the need to do it under Title II opening up this Pandora’s Box, but I’m not sure what other option they have at this point.”

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