“Internet service providers like Comcast, Verizon, AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile now must act in the ‘public interest’ when providing a mobile connection to your home or phone, under rules approved Thursday by a divided Federal Communications Commission,” Anne Flaherty reports for The Associated Press. “The 3-2 vote was expected to trigger industry lawsuits that could take several years to resolve.”

“Opponents, including many congressional Republicans, said the FCC plan constitutes dangerous government overreach that would eventually drive up consumer costs and discourage industry investment. Republican FCC Commissioners Mike O’Rielly and Ajit Pai, who voted against the plan, alleged that President Barack Obama unfairly used his influence to push through the regulations, calling the plan a ‘half-baked, illogical, internally inconsistent and indefensible document,'” Flaherty reports. “Michael Powell, a former Republican FCC chairman who now runs the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, warned that consumers would almost immediately ‘bear the burden of new taxes and increased costs, and they will likely wait longer for faster and more innovative networks since investment will slow in the face of bureaucratic oversight.'”

“‘Read my lips. More Internet taxes are coming. It’s just a matter of when,'” Commissioner Pai said,” Flaherty reports. “By 2010, the FCC enacted open Internet rules, but the agency’s legal approach was eventually struck down. FCC officials are hoping to erase the legal ambiguity by no longer classifying the Internet as an ‘information service’ but a ‘telecommunications service’ subject to Title II of the 1934 Communications Act. That would dramatically expand regulators’ power over the industry by requiring providers to act in the public’s interest and enabling the FCC to fine companies found to be employing ‘unreasonable’ business practices. The FCC says it won’t apply some sections of Title II, including price controls. That means rates charged to customers for Internet access won’t be subject to preapproval. But the law allows the government to investigate if consumers complain that costs are unfair.”

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