Politically split FCC passes new net neutrality rules

In a contentious 3-2 vote, the FCC on Tuesday passed the net neutrality rules for wireless and wireline networks.

The rules create "a strong and sensible framework" that "protects Internet freedom and openness," FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, a Democrat, said before the vote. "We're adopting a framework that will increase certainty for businesses, investors and entrepreneurs."

Of course, not everyone is happy with the rules. Within the FCC itself, the rules passed amidst a political party divide between three democrats and two republicans. Both Republican commissioners Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker argued that the proposals are not only unnecessary, but are politically motivated.

Baker argued that the new rules will actually have the negative effect of stifling new Internet innovations.

"There is no factual basis to support government intervention," she said. "The majority's approach will inhibit the ability of networks to freely evolve and experiment."

But the Republican members of the FCC weren't the only ones that had their reservations over the rules. While Democrat Commissioners Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn voted along with Genachowski to pass the net neutrality rules, they don't think they are sufficient.

Fellow Democratic commissioner Copps who almost voted against the rules said that if the FCC did not do something now, the "wheels of  network neutrality would grind to a halt for at least the next two years."

 Industry groups such as the Media Access Project also railed against the FCC's move as well.

"These rules are riddled with loopholes," Andrew Jay Schwartzman, Senior Vice President and Policy Director of Media Access Project. "They foreshadow years of uncertainty and regulatory confusion, which those carriers will use to their advantage. Those seeking to innovate and invent new uses for digital technologies face the prospect of being blocked, bilked, or intimidated by the carriers who control the pipes."

What do the rules mean for wireline service providers? While wireline broadband service providers will be banned from unreasonable discrimination of content, they will be able to conduct reasonable network management.

One of the features of the new rules is that they enable consumers to file a complaint on the FCC's website if they feel their respective broadband provider is violating net neutrality. Complaints will be expedited through the FCC's "rocket docket" feature. In addition, the FCC can investigate those carriers it believes have violated the rules as well.  

Even though it will take time for service providers and the telecom industry as a whole to digest the rules, the obvious outcome will be years of court battles. Already, a report in the National Journal emerged today that Verizon could file a lawsuit against the rules after it reviews them. However, the report added that Verizon has not made any decision on what its next steps are.

 For more:
- Bloomberg has this article
- see this National Journal article

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Only Obama's a little bit neutral on value of net neutrality