In a landmark ruling on Thursday that will almost certainly face rigorous appeal, the Federal Communications Commission voted in favour of open access to the internet.
The 3-2 vote effectively reclassifies broadband internet as a public utility telecoms service – as opposed to an information service – and blocks carriers like internet service providers (ISPs) from charging higher rates in exchange for faster transmission speeds.
FCC chairman Tom Wheeler added that for the first time open internet rules would also apply to the mobile sector.
The decision marks the end of a year-long battle that drew an unprecedented four million public comments for consideration.
Netflix has been a vocal advocate of net neutrality throughout the process, arguing that without it, ISPs would have an incentive to allow congestion to build up in order to justify higher access costs to those content providers that could afford it.
The company issued the following statement: “The net neutrality debate is about who picks winners and losers online: internet service providers or consumers. Today, the FCC settled it: consumers win.
“Today’s order is a meaningful step towards ensuring ISPs cannot shift bad conduct upstream to where they interconnect with content providers like Netflix. Net neutrality rules are only as strong as their weakest link, and it’s incumbent on the FCC to ensure these interconnection points aren’t used to end-run the principles of an open internet.
“Given the lack of competition among broadband providers, today’s other FCC decision preventing regulations that thwart local investment in new broadband infrastructure also is an important step toward ensuring greater consumer choice. These actions kick off a new era that puts the consumer, not litigious corporate giants, at the centre of competition policy.”
The Producers Guild Of America co-presidents Gary Lucchesi and Lori McCreary released a statement that said: “We believe that the FCC’s approach is realistic and provides producers of creative content with a powerful affirmation that internet distribution channels will remain equally and fairly accessible to all services, voices, and perspectives,” the statement said.