Divided FCC OKs Net Neutrality Rules

BY Chris Amico  December 21, 2010 at 2:11 PM EDT

FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski; Getty file photo

Tuesday’s Federal Communications Commission vote on new rules regulating the Internet went much as expected, with commissioners Mignon Clyburn and Michael J. Copps voting with Chairman Julius Genachowski in favor of the measure. Commissioners Meredith Attwell Baker and Robert M. McDowell opposed the new rules.


Vote goes 3-2 in favor of the “ayes.” Chairman, Comms. Copps and Clyburn in favor; McDowell and Baker against. #oirTue Dec 21 via TweetDeck

The Wall Street Journal lays out the new regulations:

The new FCC rules, for example, would prevent a broadband provider, such as Comcast Corp., AT&T, Inc. or Verizon Communications Inc., from hobbling access to an online video service, such as Netflix, that competes with its own video services.

The rules would also require Internet providers to give subscribers more information on Internet speeds and service. Broadly, the rules would prohibit Internet providers from “unreasonably discriminating” against rivals’ Internet traffic or services on wired or wireless networks.

The rules would allow phone and cable companies to offer faster, priority delivery services to Internet companies willing to pay extra. But the FCC proposal contains language suggesting the agency would try to discourage creation of such high-speed toll lanes.

Companies that operate mobile wireless networks would have fewer rules to contend with. Phone companies wouldn’t be able to block legal websites from consumers. They also can’t block mobile voice or video-conferencing applications. Wireless providers would be allowed to block other applications, however, that they say could take up too much bandwidth on wireless networks.

The rules are based around 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. A right to send and receive lawful traffic. This prohibits blocking of lawful content, apps, services, and the connection of non-harmful devices to the network

  3. Level Playing Field. A right to a level playing field. A ban on unreasonable discrimination. No approval for so-called “pay for priority” arrangements involving fast lanes for some companies but not others.

  4. Network Management. An allowance for broadband providers to engage in reasonable network management. These rules don’t forbid providers from offering subscribers tiers of service or charging based on bandwidth consumed.

  5. Mobile. Broadly applicable rules requiring transparency for mobile broadband providers, and prohibiting them from blocking websites and certain competitive applications.

  6. Vigilance. Creation of an Open Internet Advisory Committee to assist the Commission in monitoring the state of Internet openness and the effects of our rules.

Earlier this year, Genachowski spoke with the NewsHour’s Jeffrey Brown about the FCC’s national broadband plan:

Reactions to Tuesday’s net-neutrality vote have been critical on both sides. We’re collecting those below: