Today the FCC announced it’s plans for a “third way” to regulate internet access, essentially reclassifying ISPs and their right to control the service they provide their customers. Recently Comcast won a court decision regarding their ability to filter BitTorrent users on their network. The court sided with Comcast because the FCC did not have the right to impose restrictions under the current classification of ISPs. This was a serious blow to net neutrality efforts, but as many people predicted, it would not be the end of the battle. Currently internet service is a Title I classification under the Telecommunications Act, essentially preventing the FCC from having the authority to regulate them.
Under the new plans outlined today, the FCC seeks to reclassify internet providers as a Title II service, in other words they would treat them the same way as landline phone providers. However, they aren’t looking to make them classified as a full Title II, but rather have them be more of a hybrid classification which does not force them to open their networks to other competitors. Under the new “third way” plan, ISPs would be subject to Title II regulations for the transmission of data, but would remain under Title I regulations for actual information transmitted in said data.
Unsurprisingly the major providers, especially ones like AT&T, are not too happy about losing any sort of authority over their own networks. While some are not as disappointed as AT&T, it seems that the party would be over for them if the new plan is passed. While the new “third way” plan does still give ISPs some control, it seems the Title II classification for transmitting data is exactly what some of them have feared. The new plan helps pave the way for net neutrality, while trying to make ISPs happy at the same time. The plan is now up for public comment and will be eventually be presented to the FCC commissioners to vote on it. For more detailed analysis make sure to check out GigaOM as well as their follow up article.