The battle for net neutrality is not over.
THE Federal Communications Commission has made a historic decision for net neutrality. It struck the correct balance for Internet rules of the road to avoid stifling innovation and investment. This is a victory for consumers and innovators across the nation, but especially for the Pacific Northwest where thousands of jobs and millions of dollars of investment help power our Internet-based economy.
But the battle is not over.
Those who support an open Internet and the free flow of information must remain vigilant. We know that there will be fierce opposition to these rules.
It’s important we understand the significance of this decision. After receiving 4 million comments from consumers, more than any other in its history, the FCC reclassified the retail broadband service we buy from cable, phone and wireless providers as a telecommunications service under Title II of the Communications Act.
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Consumers will now be protected by net-neutrality rules whether they access the Internet through our desktop PCs, mobile phones or other mobile devices. Fifty-five percent of Internet traffic happens over wireless networks, making this provision increasingly vital. U.S. mobile-data use doubled from 2012 to 2013, and is projected to increase by 650 percent by 2018.
The FCC adopted open-Internet rules that prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) — like Comcast, CenturyLink or Wave Broadband — from throttling or blocking Internet traffic. The new rules also keep ISPs from creating Internet “fast lanes” for companies that can, and are willing, to pay while everyone else is pushed to the slow lanes.
The Internet industry accounts for more than 8 percent of all private-sector workers in Washington and contributes $21 billion to our state’s economy. We must maintain an ecosystem that attracts investment and augments the industry’s ability to grow and evolve.
The FCC, for the first time, asserted authority to hear complaints and take appropriate enforcement action regarding the interconnection activities of ISPs. If it determines that ISP activities threaten net neutrality, the FCC can address the issue through its enforcement authority. This means American consumers have a tough cop on the beat to protect its interests when it comes to Internet policies.
The FCC’s net neutrality order plainly states that the rules put into effect will not make ISPs subject to rate regulation, tariff unbundling nor other forms of utility regulation. These rules do not impose, suggest nor authorize any new taxes or fees. There will be no automatic “universal service” fee applied — the congressional moratorium on Internet taxation still applies to broadband.
However, opponents of net neutrality are already threatening lawsuits to derail our progress. Some Republicans in Congress want the FCC reined in, and will try to use oversight authority to gut this ruling. Legislation to delay and obfuscate these rules has already been proposed.
Four million people called on the FCC to adopt ironclad net-neutrality rules. We must harness that same dynamism and stand up to protect the policies ensuring an open Internet.