In Major Victory for #NetNeutrality, FCC Votes to Classify Internet as Public Utility

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In a hotly-anticipated vote, the FCC decided today to classify internet service as public utility under Title II of the Telecommunications Act. The 3-2 vote (which was split down party lines) drew the attention of progressives and net neutrality activists — including me — who urged the FCC in a series of campaigns to vote in favour of a Title II reclassification.

Title II reclassification is generally agreed to be a critical step in protecting net neutrality by establishing guidelines that would prevent major cable and internet providers from (in essence) messing with internet service in order to earn money. The new classification prohibits cable providers from, for example, establishing fast internet service for premium customers, and relegating customers who can’t or won’t pay extra for fast-lane access to significantly slower download speeds.

Title II reclassification was bizarrely opposed by many major civil rights organizations — including several high profile Asian American groups — perhaps because major cable providers such as Comcast are prominent donors to these organizations. But Title II reclassification is a boon for all digital citizens, and in particular those of us who rely on a (free, open) internet to amplify otherwise marginalized voices.

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#AAPI groups OCA & JACL join other major civil rights orgs against net neutrality

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The fight over net neutrality — which has been brewing for awhile — came to a head this year after a federal appeals court struck down the Federal Communications Commission’s Open Internet Order of 2010 in January of this year. The appeals court ruling essentially deregulated the nation’s industry of internet providers, but gave the FCC the option to write new regulations. Within weeks, the FCC had voted to open themselves up to a 4-month comment period, and then to develop new rules governing the internet.

These events have been seen by net neutrality advocates as a momentous opportunity to establish federal regulations over the distribution of the internet that ensures it is equally accessible to all users.

But, last week, the nation’s largest coalition of civil rights organizations — the National Minority Organizations collective — submitted a joint letter to the FCC in support of deregulation of major internet providers, and apparently against the option favoured by the net neutrality movement.

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