The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted on Thursday to begin the formal process of bringing the Internet under greater federal control – a move sought by both President Barack Obama and FCC Chairnman Julius Genachowski.
This step comes after the federal D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals in April rebuked the FCC in its attempt to enforce a controversial regulatory doctrine called Net Neutrality, which would allow the government to prevent private Internet providers from deciding which applications to allow on their networks.
The court said that the FCC did not have the authority to prevent Comcast, specifically, from blocking certain peer-to-peer Web sites.
The FCC is now trying to reclassify the Internet to broaden its authority over the Web. Currently, the FCC only has “ancillary” authority, meaning it can regulate Internet access only in the process of regulating another service that it has direct authority over, such as television or cable.
The 3-2 party-line vote on Thursday at the FCC began the formal process of reclassifying the Internet as a telecommunications service instead of an information service – its current classification. This is necessary because, as an information service, the government has little power to regulate Internet networks.