The Federal Communications Commission approved strict new rules for Internet providers Thursday in a historic vote that represents the government’s most aggressive attempt to make sure the Web remains a level playing field.
The rules would dramatically expand the agency’s oversight of the country’s high-speed broadband providers, regulating them like a public utility. They were adopted by a 3-to-2 margin with the commission’s Republican members voting against them.
Under the rules, it will be illegal for companies such as Verizon or Cox Communications to slow down streaming videos, games and other online content traveling over their networks. They also will be prohibited from establishing “fast lanes” that speed up access to Web sites that pay an extra fee. And in an unprecedented move, the FCC could apply the rules to wireless carriers, such as T-Mobile and Sprint, in a nod to the rapid rise of smartphones and the mobile Internet.
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