FCC prepares to vote on Net neutrality rules for an ‘open’ Internet
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This month, U.S. regulators will look -– again –- at how to hammer out so-called open Internet traffic rules that have been hotly contested by both broadband service providers and consumer groups.
Regulations set up by the five-member Federal Communications Commission at its Dec. 21 meeting could determine whether companies such as Verizon Communications Inc. or AT&T Inc. could block or slow Internet traffic.
The standards, known as Net neutrality rules, could also have implications on the protections for wireless Internet users.
“The fact is that no outcome will please every stakeholder,” said Dean Garfield, chief executive of the Informationa Technology Industry Council. “At the same time, prolonging the Net neutrality policy limbo benefits no one -– especially consumers.”
Chairman Julius Genachowski has previously tried to draw broadband companies under strict regulations usually seen in the telecommunications industry, but was stymied by court challenges.
Web companies such as Google Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. weighed in as phone and cable companies lobbied hard for free rein to manage their networks in the name of innovation and competition.
But a proposal floated by Genachowski could ban a practice known as “paid prioritization,” in which carriers charge companies to speed up access to their content while slowing traffic to competitors.
Public advocacy groups have said that creating such a “fast lane” could create a discriminatory, uneven playing field for users while providers and some lawmakers argue that prohibiting it would stall investment.
Read on for industry reactions:
“Open Internet rules must include a basis for extending service to those not now covered, full application to wireless, protection against all efforts to block or degrade Internet access, and enforceable rules rather than an ad hoc complaint-based process,” said Tyrone Brown, president of the nonprofit law firm Media Access Project. On Wednesday, reactions were mixed. Technology advocacy group CALinnovates.org said the Net neutrality debate had turned into an “argument of extremes” and that Genachowski’s plan struck “a balance between supporting growth in the tech sector and consumer protection.”
“Innovation requires an environment that is supportive and not restrictive in order to grow as it has,” said executive director Erin Lehane.
But public interest group Free Press was less than pleased.
“You can call any policy Net Neutrality, but the devil is always in the details -- and right now the details look grim...with language that creates loopholes that you could drive a Verizon-Google-sized truck through,” said chief executive Josh Silver.
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-- Tiffany Hsu