What we had hoped for has come true: The Federal Communications Commission has approved net neutrality rules. Make no mistake, this is a hugely important move, and an almost surprising one given just how much it caters to keeping the Internet open.
With these rules, ISPs will be unable to throttle the data that passes through their pipes, and they certainly can't charge companies for "fast lane" privileges. The Internet will be open, free... period. Well, you know, we can just ignore the fact that the government will continue to do whatever eavesdropping it wants - but that's totally unrelated to what net neutrality is about.
Today's ruling means that Internet access in the US will fall under Title II classification, which ensures that it'll be treated as important, like a utility, such as power.
In his official statement, FCC chairman Tom Wheeler does paint a pretty picture for the future of our Internet:
There are three simple keys to our broadband future. Broadband networks must be fast. Broadband networks must be fair. Broadband networks must be open.
Wheeler also goes on to take a small jab at companies that have argued against Title II classification:
We have heard endless repetition of the talking point that “Title II is old-style, 1930’s monopoly regulation.” It’s a good sound bite, but it is misleading when used to describe the modernized version of Title II in this Order.
If you happen to remember what Wheeler's opinions were just over a year ago, hearing these words come out of his mouth could still come as a shock. A good one though, for once.
It will take some time before we see how Title II classification could affect competition, but it's clear that there's a lot more than net neutrality that needs to be done to "fix" the Internet situation in the country. Many still don't have access to more than one ISP, and those that have access to more than one might still wind up with horrible customer service, or poor Internet packages.
Still, the passing of net neutrality is major. It's the end of a process that started even before Barack Obama became president. It's a relief to be reading this ruling today.