Silicon Valley tech firms lauded the Federal Communications Commission’s decision Thursday to preserve equal access online, while cable companies that stood to profit from a cloistered Internet warned that regulating the Web like a utility will lead to higher prices.
The commission’s 3-2 vote codifies the concept of net neutrality by barring Internet service providers such as Comcast, Verizon and AT&T from charging for access to an online fast lane, slowing loading times for certain sites, or blocking any site so long as its content is legal.
The rules “ensure that every American — no matter the size of their wallets or the color of their skin — has an equal chance to innovate and reach people online,” said Barbara van Schewick, a professor of law at Stanford University and director of the school’s Center for Internet and Society.
The once-obscure topic became a pressing economic and political issue last year when a Washington, D.C., appeals court struck down FCC rules barring service providers from discriminating against individual websites. Soon after, Netflix accused Internet service providers of slowing access to its streaming video service, leading the Los Gatos company to cut deals to guarantee its movies and TV shows would reach viewers quickly.