U.S. Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, on Thursday hailed the Federal Communications Commission’s 3-2 decision to classify broadband Internet service as a public utility.
The FCC is trying to close the debate between two competing visions for what Internet access should look like. On one side, net neutrality advocates say broadband service should be treated like all other public utilities, where all traffic is treated equally. That side is celebrating the FCC’s decision.
The other vision, advocated for by Internet service providers, says broadband should remain unregulated.
It’s not hard to see the stakes. Take Time Warner, which provides broadband Internet service as well as cable TV, as an example. If Time Warner were allowed to differentiate between one kind of traffic and another, they may very well charge competitors to their cable service — like the wildly popular bandwidth hogs Netflix — greater fees for access to their networks than they charge others.
That’s what makes today’s FCC decisions so huge. They’re siding with net neutrality advocates. The big ISPs have pledged to appeal in court.
“I think it’s one of the most important decisions made in Washington in years,” King said in a video response to the FCC’s decision. Here’s the clip:
The principle of net neutrality is that all Internet traffic should be treated equally, and that ISPs should not be allowed to throttle or block certain traffic, or prioritize any particular sites or services over any others.
Maine’s 1st District U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, a Democrat, also supports net neutrality.
In a press release Thursday, she said that “regulating the Internet as a public utility will keep giant broadband providers from stifling innovation and fair competition for their own ends. This is a huge victory for the millions of people who rose up in the last year to speak up for net neutrality and a free and open Internet.”
But not all of Maine’s congressional delegation sides with King and Pingree.
I recently asked 2nd District U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin, a Republican, for his opinion on the plan to classify broadband as a utility. His said the FCC “should not be regulating the Internet with rules designed for the 1930s,” and said he feared net neutrality would discourage investment in new technology that could increase broadband speeds in Internet backwaters, such as rural Maine.
Republican Susan Collins, Maine’s senior senator, has been noncommittal on her position on net neutrality. When I reached out to her office recently, a spokesman said only that Collins “does support common-sense regulations to prohibit Internet providers from discriminating against customers based on who they are or what they say.”