December 21, 2010

FCC Approves ‘Net Neutrality’ Rules

On Tuesday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) approved a series of new rules Tuesday that will ensure that phone and cable companies will treat all Internet traffic equally.

The FCC approved the rules aimed at safeguarding "network neutrality," which is the principle that lawful Web traffic should be treated equally.

Three Democrats on the panel voted in favor of the rules, while the two Republicans voted against them.

"Our action will advance our goal of having America's broadband networks be the freest and fastest in the world," said FCC chairman Julius Genachowski.

The rules are a balancing act by the FCC between support for consumers and the cable and telephone companies that are the primary Internet Service Providers in the U.S.

The rules are intended to prevent providers from discriminating among lawful Web traffic.

The most controversial of the rules involve the FCC taking a different approach to fixed broadband and mobile broadband, which gives wireless providers greater freedom to manage their networks due to limited spectrum.

Both fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose their network management practices and their commercial terms.

Fixed broadband providers must not "unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic."

The FCC defended its decision not to apply the same rules to wireless networks and said that mobile broadband is at an "earlier stage" than fixed broadband and is "quickly evolving."

However, mobile broadband providers are not allowed to block access to lawful websites or applications that compete directly with their own voice or video telephone service.

Some net neutrality supporters are also unhappy with the FCC's approved framework. In an editorial with the Huffington Post, Minnesota Senator Al Franken called it "badly flawed," and Aparna Sridhar of the Free Press advocacy group told BBC News that Genachowski "has completely squandered a golden opportunity to make this vote meaningful" and that the neutrality policy will "endorse bad practices in the wireless space."

"The FCC's Net Neutrality rule is so riddled with loopholes that it's become clear that this FCC chairman crafted it with the sole purpose of winning the endorsement of AT&T and cable lobbyists, and not defending the interests of the tens of millions of Internet users," Timothy Karr of Free Press added in his own Huffington Post editorial. "For the first time in history of telecommunications law the FCC has given its stamp of approval to online discrimination."
Some Republican lawmakers in the U.S. Congress have denounced the rules as unnecessary government regulation and pledged to oppose them.


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