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US communications regulator adopts Net neutrality rules

US Federal Communications Commission approved on a 3-2 vote Chairman Tom Wheeler’s proposed “net neutrality” rules that treat the online world alike regulated telecommunications markets.

New rules regulating broadband providers more heavily than in the past prohibit them from discriminating against any web site or online service. That means the power of internet providers to control download speeds on the web will be restricted. Consequently, content intensive sites won’t have to pay extra fees or face sluggish connections with their users and new sites and services will be able to reach everyone on the Internet on the same terms as the big players.

The new rules, which will apply to both wired and wireless Internet connections, will restrict the internet provider to slow down or block access to legal content, applications or services. They also may not create “fast lanes,” speeding up some traffic in return for additional fees.

Courts have struck down earlier Net neutrality efforts, saying the FCC lacked authority to impose such rules. So this time around, the FCC chose to categorize high-speed Internet service as a telecommunications service. Consumers have long been guaranteed the right to call any phone number they desire and phone companies have to treat all calls equally.