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FCC Issues Net Neutrality Order

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The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) last week adopted rules regulating Internet access, or more specifically, regulating Internet service providers. 

The rules are meant to protect the openness of and unfiltered access to the Internet.  So-called “net neutrality” is the idea that Internet service providers (ISPs) should treat content providers equally, and that (1) ISPs shouldn’t be allowed to give preferential treatment to their own content, (2) content providers shouldn't be allowed to pay ISPs to prioritize their content, and (3) ISPs should not be able to hinder access to others’ content. 

The FCC adopted three basic rules to be applied with the complementary principle of reasonable network management:

  • Transparency.  Fixed and mobile broadband providers must disclose the network management practices, performance characteristics and terms and conditions of their broadband services;
  • No blocking. Fixed broadband providers may not block lawful content, applications, services or non-harmful devices; mobile broadband providers may not block lawful websites, or block applications that compete with their voice or video telephony services; and
  • No unreasonable discrimination. Fixed broadband providers may not unreasonably discriminate in transmitting lawful network traffic.

Net neutrality in general, as well as the Dec. 21 ruling and adopted rules specifically, have been hotly debated. Critics on both sides have been responding to the recent ruling. Some critics don’t think the Internet should be regulated at all, or they worry the FCC will try to gradually increase its regulatory jurisdiction over the Internet. 

Others complain the rules leave too many loopholes (especially in the wireless arena) and believe the FCC should have gone further to protect Internet users, consumers, small start-ups and entrepreneurs. 

While I’m not sure I’m ready to weigh in with an opinion myself, I will say it seems the rules have done more to fuel the debate than to settle it. 

The FCC’s press release on the net neutrality order may be found here and the report and order may be found here.

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