In a 3-2 split, the Federal Communications Commissions approved a compromise regulation Tuesday that aims to ensure equal access to the Internet.
The vote was a victory for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who brought along two fellow Democratic commissioners to support his "open Internet" proposal after more than a year of wrangling during rulemaking.
The rule provides more stringent regulations for directly connected, so-called wireline Internet service providers, such as cable companies, but somewhat fewer and less stringent regulations for wireless Internet service providers.
"The Web as we know it is being threatened," Genachowski said, citing testimony from numerous witnesses during more than a year of debate and discussion about the proposed regulation, including, most recently, Web pioneer Tim Berners-Lee.
"Now, for the first time, we'll have enforceable rules of the road" to protect freedom of access and openness, Genachowski said. "Everyone agrees that the openness of the Internet is essential. There has been intense disagreement about the appropriate role in protecting openness and freedom.”
That remained the case during the commissioners' meeting before the vote was taken, as both Republican commissioners strongly denounced the rule, which even Genachowski's two Democratic colleagues afforded merely lukewarm support.
The rule will require Internet service providers to be more transparent about their service polices and bar them from blocking access to lawful providers of applications and services for both direct and wireless services.