The Federal Communications Commission on Thursday, in a 3-2 vote, approved the reclassification of the Internet under Title II of the Communications Act.

“A victory for the millions and millions of people who expect the Internet to be an open engine for free speech and innovation.”
—Craig Aaron, Free Press”Fast lanes will not divide the internet into haves and have-nots,” announced FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler during remarks that followed the approval, which passed along party lines with Democrats voting for the change and the two Republican-appointed members dissenting.

“Consumers will be able to go where they want, when they want,” Wheeler continued. “Today is a red letter day for internet freedom.”

Though expected, the vote was greeted with cheers—applauded as “the biggest win for the public interest in the FCC’s history”— from supporters of net neutrality, the concept that says online traffic should not be relegated to fast or slow lanes determined by the large telecom companies who control much of the nation’s digital networks.

“Today’s vote shows that ordinary Americans can make a difference when they stand up to powerful corporate interests and Washington lobbyists.”
—Sen. Bernie Sanders”We applaud Chairman Wheeler, Commissioner Rosenworcel and Commissioner Clyburn for voting for real Net Neutrality today,” said Free Press executive director Craig Aaron after the vote. “They were willing to listen to the facts in the face of a fiercely dishonest industry lobbying effort. But this is really a victory for the millions and millions of people who expect the Internet to be an open engine for free speech and innovation.”

Tiffiniy Cheng, co-founder of Fight for the Future called the fight for net neutrality and the Open Internet as the “free speech struggle in the digital age” as she welcomed the FCC decision and celebrated the coalition of groups that made it possible. “Institutions of power should know by now: Internet users will not stand idly by while anyone tries to take their freedom away. And when Internet users come together to fight for something they believe in, nothing can stop them.”

Speaking on behalf of Color of Change, the advocacy group’s executive director Rashad Robinson hailed the vote as a major civil rights victory. “Our ability to be heard, counted, and visible in this democracy now depends on an open Internet,” explained Robinson, “because it allows voices and ideas to spread based on their quality—not the amount of money behind them. Without net neutrality, the voices of everyday people wouldn’t have a chance.”

In addition, Robinson scolded those “paid to carry water for the telecoms” who said that net neutrality wasn’t a fight for communities of color or that the battle could not be won. Such voices, he said, “claimed that big telecom companies, and telecom-funded legacy civil rights groups like the National Action Network, Urban League, and NAACP, were too strong for us and our allies to face down. What they underestimated was the power of everyday people who used their voices strategically, empowered by the open Internet. We urge members of Congress to show they are on the side of communities, and not corporations, by supporting the FCC’s decision to implement the strongest net neutrality rules possible.”

Following vote, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) released the following statement:

And the ACLU’s Gabe Rottman called the move by the FCC a “plain and simple victory” for free speech rights.

“Americans use the internet not just to work and play, but to discuss politics and learn about the world around them,” said Rottman. “The FCC has a critical role to play in protecting citizens’ ability to see what they want and say what they want online, without interference. Title II provides the firmest possible foundation for such protections. We are still sifting through the full details of the new rules, but the main point is that the internet, the primary place where Americans exercise their right to free expression, remains open to all voices and points of view.”

“It’s about consumer rights, it’s about free speech, it’s about democracy.” —Tim Berners LeeTim Berners Lee, inventor of the world wide web system on which the Internet was originally built, addressed the meeting via video and applauded the FCC’s rule changes.

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“More than anything else, the action you take today will preserve the reality of a permission-less innovation that is the heart of the internet,” Berners Lee told the commissioners. “It’s about consumer rights, it’s about free speech, it’s about democracy.”

Users were using the #netneutrality hashtag on Twitter to offer reactions to the day’s historic vote:

#NetNeutrality Tweets