FCC To Reclassify Internet as Title II Carrier

After a decade of debate and public outcry last summer, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler issued a statement today promising to protect the open Internet.

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Remember in August when we asked you to support the open Internet and gave you sweet Chat Guevara stickers? Well, rejoice friends, for we have just achieved a major victory.

Defend the Open Internet


Today, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, in a statement issued to Wired, said that his agency intends to reclassify the Internet as a Title II Common Carrier. To refresh your memory, this is a Very Good Thing. Title II protections ensure that companies deliver goods to the public without discrimination. This includes things like cab companies, public airlines, and electric and water utilities. The FCC had originally caved to pressure from telecommunication companies and classified the Internet as an "information service provider" in 2002. That brought us to today's situation, where companies like Comcast were throttling speeds and intentionally slowing down data from companies like Netflix.


Perhaps most surprisingly, and more importantly, Chairman Wheeler intends to include wireless networks in this plan. That means that cellular networks like AT&T and Verizon can no longer do things like blocking FaceTime.

Chairman Wheeler's plan--supported by Netflix and Google, among others--will be circulated to the commissioners on Thursday, and the FCC intends to vote on it on February 26. It's clearly not a big hit with broadband companies, though, who have threatened legal battles over the rule change.

"My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone's permission."

Props to you, Chairman Wheeler. Even if a tough battle lies ahead, this is an important signal in the fight for net neutrality. Detractors claimed that government bodies like the FCC don't listen to us anyway, but with almost 4 million comments--a record for the FCC--clearly they got the message. Thank you for listening, Chairman, and we hope Congress heeds the same message.

The Internet is for everyone.


Comments 37 comments

  • The naivety in the post defending the FCC's actions is fascinating. Expecting the government to solve any issue with respect to the Internet is misguided. I like the person talking of taking back the Internet from the big corporations. The problem is that the large corporations have all the money and lobbies. They will ensure that they are protected. It is like when people press for taxes to be raised on the rich. The rich will use their money to find the loop holes and create them with lobbyists.

  • All these negative comments about regulation. Apparently you 'oldtimers' forgot the Rural Electrification Act which brought affordable power generation and transmission to the far corners of this nation. Likewise the Communications Act of 1934 whose goal was to wit "regulating interstate and foreign commerce in communication by wire and radio so as to make available, so far as possible, to all the people of the United States a rapid, efficient, nationwide, and worldwide wire and radio communication service with adequate facilities at reasonable charges..."

    That's the kind of regulation these over the top young whippersnappers are celebrating and rightly so.

    • Its funny you mention the communications act, when what we ended up with was a world in which it was illegal for you to wire your own phones or modems, and you had to call the phone company to come install (hardwire) one of the two types of phones you had a choice of (wall mount or desk).. Not until deregulation did we get first the "phone center stores", and then eventually a system that literally exploded with innovation with modems going from 110 baud to 56k baud in a matter of a few years. Admittedly, I am completely ignorant of the issues in this Internet/FCC thing, having only read the propaganda from both sides, but I think the general skepticism comes from the belief that you should NEVER take the phrase "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help" without a huge helping of salt. Even if it solves some perceived problem today, giving the government more power in this regard is probably NOT a good idea. We already have contract law, and I think all of the access and bandwidth problems this is said to solve could be done in the private sector with contracts between consenting individuals and companies.

      • It's only funny until you realize that w/o regulation people would never have had the physical infrastructure pushed to their house so they could have electricity and phone lines for that "explosion" that you attribute solely to deregulation.

        • So no companies would have been driven to provide services to customers without the regulation? If so, then how do you explain the Internet services we have today? Like I said, I don't really know that much about what these regulations will do or mean, but I am definitely skeptical about giving government control over something that is going to drive money to lobbyists in order to try to influence those rules that provide the "freedom" that you're after.. I'd rather have two (or 10) companies unencumbered by artificial requirements dictated by government show up at my door asking me what features I want, and then have a financial incentive to EARN my business rather than having them fight at the FAA headquarters to create rules that force me to have to use their services. And, I say that as I sit in a government building, looking out my window at the Capitol, and I drive by the FCC every day.. I live and work in the heart of this corruption, and it's not pretty..

          • Having spent sixteen years in government and ten in private industry I've seen the good, bad and ugly on both sides. So yes from experience I am saying that private industry doesn't do things that don't translate to profit unless compliance is at issue.

          • How do YOU explain the services we have already? They suck!

            Almost all the broadband in this nation comes from the same few companies. The only new startups are either resellers selling services from said companies or serve inferior service to the niche rural markets that those companies aren't interested in.

            Consumers in most areas don't even get to chose between those companies, it's only one or MAYBE two that run wires to their town. For most US consumers if they don't like something their only alternative is dialup.

            Our average broadband speeds are behind those of other first-world nations and falling further behind daily.

            All the major providers also own either encumbant television or telephone services which should probably be replaced with internet based ones. The freedom we want is the freedom to compete with those services.

            But.. hey.. no one stops you from spending all day on Facebook or watching cable TV so there must not be a problem to solve right?

            • ["The freedom we want is the freedom to compete with those services"]

              As I've said twice already, I do not know what this classification is all about; My major concern is that giving the government more control typically does not in any way equal more freedom for anyone except those rich enough to lobby the government... I am truly trying to understand the positions here because EVERYTHING I read online about this seems to be VERY biased one way or the other and I'm not seeing any honest debate on the merits of the issue. If you are being denied a "freedom to compete with those services" can you explain how that is? If that's true, there must be a law preventing you from doing so, right? I'm not being a smart a$$ about this, but why wouldn't you want the repeal (ie: less government) of the law that is preventing competition, because to me, that seems the easiest way to a free market competitive situation.

              Can you explain to me how the current situation is stopping this competition? I truly am trying to understand exactly how everyone thinks the government is going to make this better...

    • The REA killed the rapidly growing wind power industry. GE made a line of low voltage DC appliances and several companies made wind generators and battery control systems. One of them was so good that if parts are available, they are still being used in remote regions around the globe. The same kind of thinking killed all the electric trolley systems in the US except a few. There were lots of alternatives. It came to a screeching halt with subsidized vote buying - er - power distribution. Not that there is anything bad about that.

    • Your examples are not valid to this situation. The electrification and Communications Acts were passed at a time before the industries were up and running. The Internet is already running. Here is a better example. How much do you know about Armstrong (invented of FM radio)? He invented and built up radio stations with FM and then the FCC (pushed by lobbists - especially from RCA) changed the frequency spectrums for FM and let him to bankruptcy and then suicide.

      • You are mistaking my example as being strictly related to physical infrastructure. Think content to houses (virtual infrastructure). The idea stands that everybody should have access to content (or light, heat or their distant relatives voice) and that was brought about through regulation.

        • Your point is still not valid. The virtual infrastructure is already there and will require continuous improvements and scaling. The bigger question I have for you is whether you believe (for example) that the FCC's involvement in radio stations makes for it easier or more complex for a start up to create a radio station. I believe, based on numbers, that it makes it more difficult. Like everything that government does (through regulation) it makes it more difficult to do anything (not less difficult).

          Further examples... since the department of education was created have schools gotten better? Has college tuition decreased since the government began backing grants and student loans? Has energy gotten cheaper since the department of energy was created?

          I am not totally against government or regulation, but it is important to understand that the founders of our country did not believe in the things that the present government is doing. The government was not created in a way to allow for efficient providers of services (that is why it sucks so badly at doing it).

          • At this point we'll just have to agree to disagree. Having worked in the energy sector (private industry) I can say forthrightly that your electric bill would be astronomical if not for government intervention, tho. ;)

  • So now when will they start Taxing everyone that uses it and provides it? That's the eventual goal isn't it?

    • No it isn't. I suggest that you really read about this. You clearly have not. This is about OUR FREEDOMS. Freedom for corporations is not freedom for people. Try to keep that straight.

      • Just trust me. If you like your provider you can keep your provider. What could go wrong?

      • " Freedom for corporations is not freedom for people" ?? What?

        What about when a regulation imposed by the government to "guarantee" you this freedom actually has the effect of preventing a new startup from providing you a new service because some big company lobbied to have the FCC dictate some regulation or limit? Any time you give the government power like this, you are taking AWAY freedom from the marketplace, and concentrating power where it will corrupt the system because there is money to be made by those who control it. You might think it is going create you a freedom now, but just wait to see what it might cost you later...

        • "...effect of preventing a new startup from providing..."

          A new startup ISP or a new startup content provider?

          This has nothing to do with new startup ISPs. Those are pretty much already impossible on any meaningful level. Sure, you may get wireless startup here and there that serves 10-20 homes out in the sticks or you might get a reseller which is just another way to access the big main telecom's lines. The fact is that nobody can come in and run new wires.. pretty much every community has rules to prevent that already! And.. even if they could.. think of the startup cost!

          If you are talking about startup content providers then you should be all for Title II. Without Title II there WILL BE NO NEW SIGNIFICANT STARTUPS. This should be glaringly obvious. The networks are almost entirely owned by a few huge companies which have near monopoly or duopoly status in their respective regions. They also own most of the existing content.

          Look at Comcast, they purchased NBC and Universal among others FCOL! So long as they can get away with doing whatever they want with the pipes (and they DO own the pipes!) what's going to happen to your precious startups? They will be bandwidth throttled out of existance before you even have heard of them!

          We only have Netflix because they came about before Comcast figured out that they should be taking the internet seriously. Fortuantely those short-sided old guys assumed that traditional television would be king forever. I worked for Comcast back in those days when Netflix was starting out. We were told, traditional television was THE focus and internet was a toy that was not to interfere. And that's what we were told on the internet side!

          The only reason Netflix and others aren't being bandwidth throttled out of existance is because people already know about them and would raise a stink. Believe me, Comcast would LOVE to see Netflix and even Youtube die. They have tried throttling them in the past and even now still manage to squeeze money out of them now on threat of doing it again.

          If net neutrality laws were rejected tomorrow and someone tried to start something newer and better than Netflix... you would never even here of it. What few people read the first ads and went to try the service would get nothing because the providers wouldn't allow it. The users wouldn't know any better, they would assume that the new content provider just sucked and go back to watching their old TV. That's what the providers want. They want you to go back to watching your old fashioned TVs and talking on your old fashioned phones. They own that market and are comfortable there. They don't want to compete on the internet.

          • OK.. Now I see where you're coming from, and I think that makes sense, except that we don't live in a world without consumer feedback. I think that reality, a startup by definition is going to start small enough to be off the radar and ignored by the ISPs, and as they grow, they'll have the ability to fight back based on SLAs and customer complaint to the ISPs.

            Let me propose a fictional site I could create today called "MeTube".. I would have my home quadcopter videos on it, and an invitation to join my site and post your own videos. By word of mouth, I manage to get a few of my friends to post a couple videos on it, and it starts to grow.. For now, I'm able to succeed on a T1's worth of bandwidth, and everything is fine. As my site grows in popularity, I need to buy more bandwidth from my site to the Internet.. Let's say I move it into a hosting provider, or put it on Amazon's cloud services where I can dynamically buy enough bandwidth to serve my customers. As I grow, I can (MUST) monitor how much bandwidth I'm using, vs. what I'm paying for, and if my content begins to get throttled, it will be apparent because I wont be using my purchased bandwidth, but my service quality will be down. there's NO WAY as a consumer that I'm going to stand for that, and I'm going to switch to another provider. There's still enough providers out there that I should be able to find one that will promise me that they wont throttle my traffic, especially if that's the contract I draw up with them. The same would be true on the consumer side. If I'm paying Comcast for 30mbps, and I can't watch my nephew's kickball video on "MyTube" and I see that I'm only getting 1mbps, I'm DEFINITELY going to complain to my provider, and switch providers, or service level agreements so that doesn't happen to me anymore. As a consumer, I don't care if it's Comcast doing it, or one of their upstream providers. All I know is that as a customer of Comcast, I'm getting crap service. It will be in Comcast's best interest to work with their providers to keep their own customers happy.

            Therefore, If the problem is in the cloud, between AWS and COMCAST, then they will have to eventually take care of that because of the customer complaints that they're getting from BOTH sides.. Maybe they'll install a direct link between themselves to avoid a bad backbone provider, or maybe they'll tell the backbone provider that they need to stop throttling their customer's traffic, and come up with another SLA between them.

            The point is, all of this dynamic interaction happens so fast, and so automatically, to make customers happy (or at least provide just enough service to convince customers not to leave), that there's NO WAY that government intervention could possibly move quickly enough to make a positive impact on ANY of this. We already have contract law and civil courts to handle any breach of service contracts - We don't need new laws for that.

            Is the end goal of this that all packets are created equal, and that regardless of type, source, or destination, they should all be routed in the order received? If so, then this is going to create a HUGE mess. There are good, valid reasons for QoS technologies to give higher priorities to packets which are real-time media, and lower priority to large, bulk file transfers that go for hours, but nobody cares if it gets there in 6 hours or 7. Existing ISP contracts can (but don't have to) stipulate exactly how any customer's traffic will be handled, and each customer has an SLA to refer to when troubleshooting their systems.

            I guess my point is that I see your concerns, but I believe all of that can be managed by the customer taking their dollars elsewhere, and/or by customer contracts dictating what SLAs are appropriate. I think getting the government involved is a mistake, and it's just going to drive prices higher as the big guys buy off politicians (oops.. I mean "hire lobbyists") and pass those costs off to you as the customers.. The more control you concentrate in Washington, the more dollars go there (from you) and the more corruption follows those dollars.

            Please let me know where I'm misiunderstanding here.. I'm not trying to have a fight - I'm trying to learn about this, and maybe have a real debate on the merits of this plan.. Nothing I've read out in the wild has been independent enough for me to not think it's wildly biased one way or the other..

    • They already do. Have you ever looked at your ISP bill?

  • Your youthful glee is charmingly naive. I can't see the good in it. Once it falls under their regulation, they own it and will do whatever is expedient without legislation. This is a very bad thing.

    I never saw anyone display one of the psychopath serial killer stickers. This isn't college anymore - its serious. Now they can block encrypted content if the NSA is not provided with a key, and all those other good things. Just give the minions time to write 30,000 pages of new regulations per year. Service providers will need on-staff lawyers. And individuals with servers at home? Consider them hosed.

    • Youthful glee? How do you figure that? If you can't see the good in it, it's not clear that you know what "It" is. Your remarks about "owning it" are completely skewed from what this is about. So 'A very bad thing" is based on what comprehension? Nothing in your remark demonstrates understanding of this.

      Rather than absurd "Youthful glee" - I see cynicism from you, but based on what knowledge of this change? I'll speculate that you have some idea that all regulation is bad but I also think you think regulating (or limiting) corporations is not regulating people. Done right (and this is), it gives people and small business more freedom and not less. You don't appear to understand that.

  • We as a society have lost an understanding of freedom. Whether it is this issue or the vaccine issue and other issues. We are becoming slaves of a large institution and we don't even realize it.

    • Some people are slaves of ignorance. I don't think you really realize much.

    • It is about the way of government and how regulatory agencies achieve growth. There is nothing new about that. Youthful expectations that THIS will be different are also not new. How do you keep it 'right'? No one ever has. Ever.

  • Seems like another instance of "solve a problem that doesn't exist". The internet, as it stands today, works well. Obviously there are some bad things that occur, but allowing government into it will be bad for everyone. This is certainly a step forward towards taxing it.

    • Fortunately, reclassifying network operators as common carriers doesn't change or affect one way or the other whether the government is involved in the internet. The US government after all invented the internet as ARPANET 46 years ago, with the initial message transmitted across it in 1969. And also fortunately, the US government has announced plans to relinquish ADMINISTRATION of the internet already, for reference see this article in the Washington Post from last March.

      It's a really great thing to reclassify network operators as common carriers because (depending on the details of the rules, which we've heard hints about but have not yet seen) this should require them to operate in reasonable and nondiscriminatory ways.

    • Really? Internet providers have already been caught throttling content that competed with their market plan. The only thing that ever prevented it from getting a lot worse was the threat that this would happen.

      As for taxing the internet? Well.. if the government wants to do that then they will have to pass a bill that taxes the internet. This is not that. I'm pretty sure that the rumor that the government is going to tax the internet has been around nearly as long as the internet itself. I know I read those silly email forwards about it back in the mid 1990s!

      Doing so would be stupid. It would be political suicide. If any politician pushed for that then all the people that came out for Net Neutrality, all the people who came out against SOPA and probably millions more would instantly be against them. they haven't even succeded in enforcing sales tax on things sold over the internet!

      Besides, any time they want more money they can just take it in the form of gas or income taxes and hardly anyone will notice. Why would they want to kick the Internet tax hornet nest?

  • This is nothing new!

    I think one thing the net-neutrality regulation nay-sayers need to keep in mind.. the Internet began under Title II! It's only been since 2003 that ISPs had free-reign to filter what their customers have access to. Clearly Internet innovation will not be harmed by Title II. The comercial internet that we all love today was born under it!

    In the days since the internet was de-regulated ISPs have gone out of business, bought out or been bought by one another. The market has been consolidated into just a few hands most of which own other content or services that the internet competes with. They are the foxes guarding the hen house. Their interests are not compatible with our own.

    Nobody is proposing any wild un-heard of changes. We just want the rules to go back to where they were in a better time when they actually fostered innovation and growth instead of protecting entrenched anti-consumer interests.

  • The idiocy involved in this ridiculous pandering to the oligarchy is profound. They steal their monies from people to feed their war lust, pay off their corporate cronies, and their banker friends, all the while people still stupidly cheer for these bureaucrats to protect their rights, after a history of almost nothing but impedance and failure? Yeesh open your eyes, please, for once.

  • Choose your poison: crony capitalism, or unbridled government meddling.

  • Looks like ISPs need to actually spend money on their infrastructure to provide broadband.

    • But first, they'll have to raise prices and keep saying "Internet Tax" a lot. Then they'll have to raise prices some more because, really, people weren't paying enough for the internet they were getting in the first place. Then, after a few rounds with the lawyers, they'll exploit every little-and-not-so-little loophole to throttle content, discriminate between services (and by that I mean e.g. Netflix vs Amazon, not VOIP vs torrents), and raise prices for peering as well.

      But after that, they just might have to spend money on infrastructure.. provided the mobile companies don't beat them to it.

      • Couldn't agree more. This will be a great excuse for everyone to raise prices. Get ready to pay more!

        My bigger fear is that the big companies will now use the new government regulations (along with their big buck lobbyists) to create government enforced monopolies and we will have traded a minor amount of corporate censorship for a much greater amount of government enforced censorship of the internet. A big win indeed.

      • Either way, we'll see what the regulations provision.

    • And where does that money come from? It comes from YOU the customer, which means that if you are a small ISP, and don't have a large enough client base to spread the costs across, you can't compete.. That becomes a BIG win for the big ISPs that can lobby the FCC to force specific features or speed guarantees onto the marketplace. If you think the government can control this without causing LESS service for more money, then you probably still believe that you can keep your doctor, and your costs are going to go down $2500/year...

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