In an historic vote on Thursday, the United States Federal Communications Commission has vowed to protect net neutrality.
The 3-2 vote will see the internet reclassified as an open ‘utility’ service alongside other forms of communication.
The vote means Internet Service Provider plans to charge companies like Netflix, who demand more bandwidth, higher fees for ‘paid prioritisation’ to the broadband superhighway will not be allowed.
The vote is a huge victory for supporters of a democratised, free and open internet and a blow to the ISPs looking to strike preferred nation deals with the most demanding companies.
As a result of the reclassification the FCC will play a greater role in overseeing the ISPs. So, if companies have concerns they can now raise them with the regulator.
With the internet now a ‘Title II’ utility, the FCC will also be able to set rates and make sure competitors have access.
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said: “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.
“This is no more a plan to regulate the internet than the first amendment is a plan to regulate free speech.”
The ruling in the US could have major ramifications in the UK, where similar proposals are under consideration.
Earlier this month, the House of Lords also called for the internet to be reclassified as a utility. Such a ruling would protect net neutrality in the UK also.
Across the pond the new rules will take effect 60 days after the new report is published. That could take a few weeks and perhaps longer if the ISPs decide to appeal the decision.