February 26, 2015 might very well go down in history as the day the Obama White House killed the Internet.
In a 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission decided to radically change the way they regulate the Internet, by declaring it to be a public utility akin to the phone system. The decision was strictly along party lines: the two Republican-appointed FCC commissioners voted no, while FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and two other commissioners, all appointed by Democrats, voted to move forward.
Under these new regulations, which have yet to be released to the public in their entirety, Internet providers will be classified as Title II Telecommunications Services–a substantial change that will put stringent limits on an Internet service provider’s ability to control content delivery.
This decision comes after President Barack Obama made a personal appeal to the FCC, calling for the agency to implement these sweeping, draconian rules that will tightly regulate the Internet. Such a statement from a President is, for lack of a better term, bizarre–it’s exceedingly rare for a President to blatantly try to influence an independent regulatory agency.
Before Obama’s appeal, Chairman Wheeler was considering a more moderate approach–a possible response to the more than 700,000 petition signatures opposing these rules that the FCC received from activist groups like American Commitment last August. But after pressure from Obama, Wheeler fell into line and agreed to move forward with more restrictive rules.
The new regulations will have a tremendous impact on consumers.
Since the Internet’s creation, it’s been largely unregulated by the U.S. Government. The FCC’s decision will create a stranglehold on innovation, by routing new ideas and new methods through a federal bureaucracy. It’ll also put more power into the hands of corporate content providers, like Netflix and YouTube.
Luckily, these new rules are likely to be challenged in court–but, for now, the Obama White House’s unprecedented attack on online freedom poses a serious risk to the Internet as we know it.