FCC vote on Net Neutrality rules – February 26, 2015

FCC vote

Chairman Wheeler: so for those of you who are keeping score at home, you've seen the kind of wholesome debate that goes on every day here at this commission. And it gets resolved by the democratic process of taking a vote. Let me start the process towards that vote by thanking the nearly 4 million people who participated in this proceeding. You told us you were concerned about the future of the internet, and your participation has made this the most open proceeding in FCC history. Not all of you agreed with each other and not all of you agreed with the action that we are going to take today. But you made our process, and thus our decision, stronger. We listened and we learned. I believe that's what congress intended when they established the rules by which this agency operates. 

 Those 4 million comments also illustrate the importance of an open and unfettered network and the role it plays as a core of free expression and democratic principles. Well, some other countries try to control the internet, the action that we take today is an irrefutable reflection of the principle that no one, whether government or corporate, should control free and open access to the internet. [applause] 

The internet -- the internet is the most powerful and pervasive platform on the planet. It's simply too important to be left without rules and without a referee on the field. Think about it. The internet has replaced the functions of the telephone and the post office. The internet has redefined commerce, and as the outpouring from 4 million Americans has demonstrated, the internet is the ultimate vehicle for free expression. The internet is simply too important to allow broadband providers to be the ones making the rules. [applause] 

So let's address an important issue head-on. This proposal has been described by one opponent as, quote, a secret plan to regulate the internet. Nonsense! This is no more a plan to 
regulate the internet than the first amendment is a plan to regulate free speech. [applause] 

They both stand for the same concept: openness, expression, and an absence of gate keepers telling people what they can do, where they can go and what they can think. The action that we take today is about the protection of internet openness. Now let's make no mistake about it, broadband access providers have the technical ability and the economic incentive to impose 
restrictions on the internet. As the D.C. circuit said in its decision remanding this matter to us, quote, broadband providers represent a threat to internet openness and could act in ways that would ultimately inhibit the speed and extent of future broadband deployment. Unquote. But today, a majority of this commission establishes that will not come to pass. Today is a red letter day for internet freedom. For consumers who want to use the internet on their terms. For innovators who want to reach consumers without the control of gate keepers. For a future in which there are rules to protect the internet and its users. But importantly today is also a day that gives network operators what they require if they're to continue to expand broadband service and competition. The rules for a fair and open internet are not old style utility regulation, but a 21st century set of rules for a 21st century service. Rate regulation, tariffing and forced unbundling have been superseded by a modernized regulatory approach that has already been demonstrated to it work in encouraging investment in wireless voice networks. 

It is important for consumers as well as companies that nothing in today's order alters the economic model for continued network expansion. The ISPs’ revenue stream will be the same tomorrow as it was yesterday. Before today, that revenue enabled companies to build ever faster networks. Nothing in what we do today changes the equation for consumer revenues to isps for tomorrow. And I believe that's why Sprint, T-Mobile, Frontier Communications and Google Fiber along with hundreds of smaller phone company ISPs have said they're comfortable with the commission's modern regulatory approach, and, bulletin, according to this morning's "wall street journal," and the headline, quote, Cablevision CEO plays down business effect of FCC proposal, which quotes the CEO of Cablevision as saying, quote, we don't see at least what the chairman has been discussing as having any real impact on our business. Unquote. 

Today's order is more powerful and more expansive than any previously considered or suggested. It provides a statutory one-two punch, if you will, that combines title ii of the communications act with the significant powers of section 706 of the telecommunications act. This is the FCC using all the tools in our toolbox to protect innovators and consumers to ban paid prioritization, the so called fast lane, they will not divide the internet into haves and have-nots, to ban blocking, consumers will get what they pay for, unfettered access to any lawful content on the internet, and to ban throttling. Because degrading access to legal content and services can have the same effect as blocking, and it will not be permitted to exist. These are enforceable bright line rules. They will allow consumers to go wherever they want when they want. They will also protect the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone's permission. The order also includes a general conduct rule that can be used to stop new and novel threats to the internet. Any action must not unreasonably interfere with or unreasonably disadvantage the ability of consumers and content providers to use the internet. There's one thing we can all agree on up here, I'm sure. And that is that we cannot possibly imagine what's going to happen next on the internet. We want to encourage that kind of innovation by making sure that there are ground rules. Those ground rules are in place. Everybody knows what's expected. 

And for the first time, those ground rules will apply to both wired and wireless access to the network. Mobile networks account for the vast majority of internet access. Mobile is a critical pathway, and it must be open and fair. Today's order also for the first time asserts jurisdiction over the connections by which ISPs plug in to the internet. And the core principle there is the same a as elsewhere. The internet must remain open. We will protect the values of an open internet. Both in the last mile as well as at the point of interconnection. 

So let me close where I began. With a shout out to 4 million Americans who took their time to share with us their views. Today history is being made by a majority of this commission. As we vote for a fast, fair and open internet, and with that, I will call for the yeas and nays. All in favor say aye. Aye. Opposed? No. The ayes have it. 

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