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FCC Adopts Net Neutrality Rules

FCC Adopts Net Neutrality Rules

Today the FCC voted to adopt its version of Network Neutrality, or the principle that the Internet should remain a free and open space for consumers and business innovation alike.  The final order adopted by the agency enshrined the following six principles:

1.  Transparency: Consumers and innovators have a right to know the basic performance characteristics of their Internet access and how their network is being managed;

2.  No Blocking: This includes a right to send and receive lawful traffic.  This prohibits the blocking of lawful content, apps, services and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network;

3.  Level Playing Field: Consumers and innovators have a right to a level playing field.  This means a ban on unreasonable content discrimination.  There is no approval for so-called “pay for priority” arrangements involving fast lanes for some companies but not others;

4.  Network Management: This is an allowance for broadband providers to engage in reasonable network management.  These rules don’t forbid providers from offering subscribers tiers of services or charging based on bandwidth consumed;

5.  Mobile: The provisions adopted today do not apply as strongly to mobile devices, though some provisions do apply.  Of those that do are the broadly applicable rules requiring transparency for mobile broadband providers and prohibiting them from blocking websites and certain competitive applications;

6.  Vigilance: The order creates an Open Internet Advisory Committee to assist the Commission in monitoring the state of Internet openness and the effects of the rules.

Like any good compromise, neither side will be happy with what the FCC adopted.  Consumer groups will argue that it does little to prevent the largest telecommunications firms from making access a challenge given the allowance for tiered pricing.  Telecom will no doubt argue that the agency overreached in terms of managing the marketplace.

Throughout the hearing Chairman Genachowski made it clear that he was seeking a middle path, perhaps a result of months of frustrating attempts to forge some kind of bipartisan agreement for regulation.  According to Genachowski reliability and predicability for both consumers and innovators were the driving principles behind the order ultimately adopted by the agency.

Another sign that while far from perfect the FCC may have chosen the best path through the regulatory gridlock is the fact that there was bi-partisan dissent from the order.  Predictably Republican commissioners believe that the FCC is beyond the scope of its authority to regulate the Internet while Democratic commissioners believe that the order, in failing to extend all of the fixed rules to mobile devices, does not go far enough. 

The order ultimately passed with a 3-2 vote, with “ayes” from Genachowski, Copps and Clyburn, the more liberal members of the Commission.  While Clyburn was the most vocal critic from the left of the rules adopted he chose to vote for the measure rather than see it languish any more than it already has.

While far from perfect the FCC took a step in the right direction today.  Ultimately it is easier to build on the rules passed than to try lay the original foundation once the Republicans assume control of Congress.  The key in moving forward will be to ensure the agency has the resources and will-power necessary to enforce these rules and to shore up, as best as possible, the rules from partisan attacks from the right. 

Republicans haven’t missed a beat and have already vowed to introduce legislation to overthrow the rules and to withdraw funds appropriated the the FCC to execute the rules.  Knowing that Congress will change hands in a few short weeks Genachowski was wise to get these rules passed now while he can, even if they lack some of the teeth many of us hoped for.  That said, the battle to keep the Internet open and accessible is far from over.

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photo courtesy of dcmorton via Flickr

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33 comments

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11:06AM PST on Jan 1, 2011

I suspect these rules are anything but neutral!!

9:28AM PST on Dec 30, 2010

I clearly remember when championship boxing was free to watch on regular Television. Back then, you could watch most football and basketball games on regular TV. Have you noticed lately, that the move is towards "cable paid programing?" Well, that's the same way the Internet will become if the big companies have their way! "It will continue that way, until all that's left for the poor people is,junk access!" Don't believe me? Just check out the price of cable packages these days!

http://www.savetheinternet.com/

7:55AM PST on Dec 29, 2010

The FCC must have it funding removed, as it is a Agency out of control. I did not vote for any of the people on the board and have no controls or input. This new regulation is only one more nail in the coffin of my right as a citizen of the Republic. For sure, this will give more power to shut up anyone who has a view that does not go along with theirs. To balance the budget have all funding cut to these Shadow Agency who make their own regulation with out any controls. Along with the FCC, cut the FDA and stop their approving poison drugs to make higher profits for the Pharmaceutical Co. and murder over 200,000 citizen per year.

3:22PM PST on Dec 28, 2010

The beginning of the end

1:53PM PST on Dec 26, 2010

Keep internet acess available to everyone. Enough nickel and diming by these thugs.

1:14AM PST on Dec 23, 2010

Boycott AT&T.

12:40AM PST on Dec 23, 2010

I admit it does not sound that bad to me. Of course, I am not rich enough to even have mobile devices. I can barely afford the "economy high speed" (1 Meg) which my cable company has (but does not advertise or list in any of their brochures -- I had to ask for it). The important protections do seem to apply to me: transparency, no blocking, and level playing field. Of course if the rules are not enforced, it is all meaningless anyway -- but that would be the case even if the rules were ideal. I think it might actually be more likely that these limited rules will be enforced.

Of course the rich will get better service than the poor! This is America! The rich ALWAYS get better service than the poor! Expecting the FCC to change that is absurd. That would be radical, and certainly beyond the scope of an Agency (rule making to enforce Congressional legislation is not beyond the scope of Agencies, one writer to the contrary).

We already have tiered pricing. The same is true for most services. Use more electricity, you pay more. Use more gas, you pay more. Use more health care, you pay more. Why should access to the Internet be any different?

It is a valid complaint that mobile devices are exempted, but people who use mobile devices are NOT the poor! I suggest those who want mobile devices protected contact their congresscritters. I have done so (multiple times) to protect my access to the Internet. The rules can be improved.

9:19PM PST on Dec 22, 2010

In my earlier post I was talking the "government takeover!" crowd back from their hysteria, but I realize that I almost sounded like I was supporting this bill. I was not, do not. This bill ends net neutrality and gives the telecoms the ability to "tier" their service, exactly opposite of what net neutrailty means. But a government takeover it IS NOT. Corporate takeover IT IS.

And yes, absolutely, the Obama admin has once again let us down in a very fundamental way. But you people screaming aobut Obama taking over the auto, banking, healthcare etc are just wingnuts. I went to Robert S page and saw that he's in the Fox and Friends group, so that tells me where he's coming from. We just saw the study that showed Faux News viewers are by far the most misinformed and under-educated group of viewers out there.

6:44PM PST on Dec 22, 2010

Don't be fooled..It is a double edge rule that still favours the largest telecommunications firms by making access a challenge and giving the allowance for tiered pricing.So there will be internet for the peons and Internet for the rich...Welcome to real Democracy....

5:41PM PST on Dec 22, 2010

The end of the internet is in sight!

Killed by corporate greed.

Genachowski's pockets are lined, we're screwed again!

What amazes me is that agencies like the FCC are NOT constitutionally entitled to make laws, rules or regulations.

They are not part of the three branches of government, even though some will argue that they have been empowered by the three branches of government.

BULL - the constitution clearly requires that legislation can only be enacted by Congress, signed into law by the president, and if constitutional, upheld by the courts.

The FCC and each one of the 180+ agencies that exist to let members of Congress abdicate THEIR responsibility, should only be ENFORCEMENT agencies, if they are going to be allowed to exist at all.

Enforcing laws made by Congress.

I strongly recommend reading "The Rise Of Tyranny" by Jonathan W Emord.

It's about how federal agencies abuse power and pose risks to your life and liberty!

And it's right on the button!

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