A Guide to Today's FCC Vote on Net Neutrality
FCC decision will almost certainly head to the courts
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 26, 2015 7:40 AM CST
In this Oct. 8, 2014 file photo, Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler speaks during new conference in Washington.   (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

(Newser) – The Federal Communications Commission will vote on net neutrality today, after lengthy debate. Though the topic seems destined for the courts, the FCC's decision "is going to be a benchmark," a researcher tells USA Today. The board is expected to approve chairman Tom Wheeler's guidelines to regulate the Internet like a utility, as President Obama suggested. His proposal also labels broadband providers as "common carriers" under Title II of the Telecommunications Act, which means the FCC could prohibit paid prioritization for "fast lanes," NBC News reports. What does that mean for you?

  • "All this ruling means is that there will be FCC jurisdiction to examine practices and hear complaints," a legal professor explains. He bats down claims that this is "an all-or-nothing decision that will transform the Internet," suggesting much is still to be determined. "Your broadband will still cost the same amount as it did before."

  • Essentially Wheeler's rules would mean Internet service providers must treat all traffic equally, which is why Netflix—which claims almost 35% of peak traffic in the US—supports the move. It can't be charged more for the bandwidth it uses. Companies like Etsy, Kickstarter, Tumblr, and Vimeo support rules similar to Wheeler's.
  • In the past, so did Google. But nearly a decade after Google and Facebook first pushed for new rules, the search giant has urged the FCC to draft rules boosting investment in broadband Internet networks, as have net neutrality opponents AT&T and Comcast, the Wall Street Journal reports.
  • An expert predicts the "public utility-style regulations" will "create a tremendous amount of chaos" for cable and Internet companies, particularly when it comes to addressing congestion. They would have to ensure their practices of freeing up bandwidth are "reasonable," NPR reports.
  • The rules also include what's called "zero-rating," which is when an app or group of apps—for example T-Mobile's Music Freedom plan—isn't counted against a user's data cap. Sounds like a bonus, right? "That distorts competition," says one expert.
  • Republicans generally consider Wheeler's rules a government power grab. Congress could respond with legislation that undercuts Wheeler's guidelines, but Obama would likely veto.