The Internet has gone largely unregulated since it came into being more than 30 years ago[.] But today the Chairman of the [FCC] announced his intention to change all that. . . .
No no no no. The FCC is changing nothing. It is preventing change.
As I've argued before, the Internet succeeded because of regulation. It's true, of course, that higher-layer content services (email, videos, browsing, etc.) have always been unregulated. But these services have traditionally relied upon an underlying regulated open access regime that allowed them to flourish.
To be grossly general, just imagine roads. The world today would be much different if the Ford Motor Company owned the interstate highways and could block Hondas from using it. In short, you could imagine a "closed" interstate highway system. But that's not how the interstates work. They're "open." Anyone can use them. Any "device" with wheels will work on them.
The Internet could have very easily evolved into a "closed" network, but it didn't. Instead, the Internet is open because we adopted policies in the 1960s and 70s that required it to be open (namely, we prevented AT&T from strangling it). The FCC today is merely protecting what has always been.
The point of confusion is that the Bush Administration -- an ongoing gift to the world -- adopted new legal labels for "the roads." In short, the Bush FCC started deregulating the physical transmission facilities by legally equating them with content services like Google.
In sum -- the Bush FCC expanded the definition of "the Internet" to include things that have always been regulated. The FCC today merely reaffirmed these traditional protections. And so it's only an "unprecedented" regulation if you ignore the entire history of the Internet. Come on NPR -- you're NPR.