New Net Neutrality Rules By FCC Kicks Up Internet Storm: Here's Why

By Christian de Looper | Mar 02, 2015 06:53 AM EST

The Federal Communications Commission historically voted for net neutrality, essentially giving the agency the power to regulate the Internet as a utility.

Yet the vote does not represent the end of the net neutrality battle by a long shot. Even the FCC's vote count illustrates the fact the debate isn't over, with three members voting in favor and two voting against the new rules.

The road ahead for net neutrality will be a long one. First, the rules will have get a rubber stamp from the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, something that could take as long as 120 days. The rules will then have to be published on the Federal Register for public comment.

It is at this point that the regulations are likely to be challenged in court. In fact, a number of Internet providers, including Verizon and AT&T, have made it clear that they would sue the agency ruled in favor of net neutrality.

The reason is that the rules essentially forbid things like paid prioritization, as well as website blocking and Internet throttling. Of course the approved rules are good for consumers, but not so good for Internet Service Providers that stand to make money from services like paid prioritization or what's known as 'fast lanes.'

It's also likely Congress will battle over the new regulations, with some lawmakers calling the rules  "Obamacare for the Internet" and claiming they were designed by President Barack Obama and dictated to FCC Chairperson Tom Wheeler.

Wheeler says these accusations are ridiculous.

"This is no more a plan to regulate the Internet than the First Amendment is a plan to regulate free speech," said Wheeler on Thursday.

Congress could vote to nullify the new rules, however Obama could then issue a presidential veto of the vote.

Many also suggest the FCC could use these rules to regulate Internet rates, however the FCC has repeatedly said it will not enforce regulations relating to rates. It will, however, prevent ISPs from blocking or slowing down websites or from charging content companies like Netflix to create special fast lanes for their content.

Republicans are likely to pass their own legislation, which would eventually override regulations approved by the FCC. Democrats do not support legislation being touted by Republicans, however if Republicans change their legislation to be closer to the net neutrality rules they could draw support from Democrats. This is largely because it would eliminate legal challenges to the FCC on the grounds that the FCC is overstepping its boundaries.

If none of this works for Republicans Congress could specifically prevent the FCC from using any of its funding to enforce net neutrality rules. Obama would then be faced with submitting a broader budget bill on the issue.

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