The FCC has voted 3-2 along political lines to extend the government's reach and regulate the internet via net neutrality.
The vote to institute net neutrality rules marks the first time the government has stepped into the world of internet regulation. Proponent's of the net neutrality rules say that the move allows the government to stop companies from controlling too much of the internet, while opponents view it as a scary example of government control and an impediment of private business.
"As we stand here now, the freedom and openness of the Internet are unprotected... . That will change once we vote to approve this strong and balanced order," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at a commission meeting on Tuesday, according to The Hill.
The paper says the new rules "create new transparency standards for wired and wireless carriers," while also preventing "wired carriers from blocking lawful applications and services." For example, "wireless carriers are prohibited from blocking websites as well as applications that compete with their services."
The rules have drawn criticism from both sides of the aisle, with Republicans arguing that it marks too much government oversight, and Democrats saying that rules don't go far enough. Instead, Democrat commissioners wanted stronger rules for wireless companies, but said they would settle for today's new rules.
But the move enraged the commission's Republican members.
"The FCC is not Congress. We cannot make laws," said Republican Commission Robert McDowell, describing Tuesday as "one of the darkest days in FCC history." He also suggested that new rules may be in for a court battle.
"The era of Internet regulatory arbitrage has dawned," he said.
Fellow Republican Commissioner Meredith Baker accused the chairman of smarmy political and manipulative tactics to pass the order, saying she only received her a copy of the proposal in the late hours of last night.
"I think we can all do better and let's do so in the New Year," she said.
Baker also questioned why the FCC rushed to vote on the rules as the Christmas holiday approaches. "I keep returning to what should be a threshold question," she wrote in an op-ed in the Washington Post on Tuesday. "Why does the FCC plan to intervene in a rushed manner, days before the year's end, in the one sector of the economy that is working so well to create consumer choice, jobs and entrepreneurial opportunity? Until we can answer that, I hope my colleagues will stand down and allow Congress to take the lead on these issues."
In an op-ed this morning on RealClearPolitics.com, Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) called the move a "vampire-like" leap on the "next great sector of American life," and said those who want to regulate the internet are trying to "suck it dry in the name of 'public interest,' 'fair play,' or any other euphemistic glamour the Executive and Legislative branches can be lulled into."
"This may sound like a Halloween tale," she wrote, "but the FCC's Christmas Week takeover of the Internet is the best example of President Reagan's maxim that the nearest thing to eternal life on Earth is a federal program.
This is a breaking story. Updates may be added.