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FCC Enacts Open Internet Rules for Wireless, Cable

23 декабря 2010

The FCC voted 3-2 yesterday in favor of net neutrality rules affecting both wireless and fixed-line broadband Internet providers, but mobile operators escaped from a key provision that would stop them from discriminating against lawful network traffic.

The agency said it decided it was appropriate “to take measured steps at this time to protect the openness of the Internet when accessed through mobile broadband” and excluded wireless operators from a measure which blocks broadband Internet providers from “unreasonable discrimination” of lawful network traffic. That provision will apply only to fixed services, not wireless services.

“As I have said for many months, as many innovators and entrepreneurs have told us, and as the facts and record bear out, there are differences between mobile and fixed broadband that are relevant in determining what action government should take for mobile at this time,” Genachowski said, adding that “any reduction in mobile Internet openness would be a cause for concern, as would any reduction in innovation and investment in mobile broadband applications, devices, or networks that depend on Internet openness.”

Still, both cable and wireless operators like Sprint and Verizon Wireless are subject to a “no blocking” rule which affects lawful content and applications, and are also prevented from disallowing services like Google Voice which compete with their own offerings. Companies must also disclose information to consumers about network management practices and performance under the regulation’s transparency requirement.

The rules are subject to “reasonable network management,” which the FCC defines as “appropriate and tailored to achieving a legitimate network management purpose” such as ensuring network security and integrity, addressing harmful network traffic and mitigating network congestion.

The FCC plans to enforce the rules with its own inquiries, and consumers will be able to complain directly to the FCC if they believe their broadband Internet provider is violating the agency’s net neutrality regulations. Formal complaints can be filed 10 days after giving notice to a service provider, and the agency plans to use its “rocket docket” to speed up the process.

The regulations did not include a reclassification of broadband Internet services under Title II of the Communications Act, a measure many industry stakeholders feared would result in severe regulatory overreach. The agency considered reclassification after a court decision last spring undermined its authority to regulate broadband Internet services. In today’s order, the agency argued that “broadband Internet access services are clearly within the [FCC’s] jurisdiction.” The FCC cited several provisions of the Communications Act, including Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, Title II, Title II, and Title VI.

Verizon public affairs chief Tom Tauke was supportive of the FCC’s net neutrality regulations but expressed reservations about its legal foundation. In a statement, Tauke said “the FCC's decision apparently reaches far beyond the net neutrality rules it announced today. Based on today's announcement, the FCC appears to assert broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband wireline and wireless networks and the Internet itself.”

CTIA President and CEO Steve Largent had a mixed reaction to the FCC’s ratification of the net neutrality rules, saying that while CTIA continue to maintain that such rules are unnecessary for the wireless industry, the association appreciated that the FCC appeared to recognize differences between fixed and mobile broadband.

On the political front, the outbound chairman of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman, Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) supported the measure while incoming House Republican Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.) vowed to work to overturn the regulations.

Stearns will become chair of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Oversight Subcommittee when the new Congress convenes next year. He pledged to work with incoming chair of the House subcommittee on Communications, Technology and the Internet, Greg Walden (R-Ore.), to prove that the FCC lacks the authority to enact net neutrality regulations. Stearns also plans to pursue a resolution of disapproval in the 112th Congress to prevent the regulations from being enacted.

“Even if there was any reasonable cause to impose Internet regulation, it would be up to Congress to do so,” Stearns said in a statement. “We will outline that Internet regulation is out of the FCC’s jurisdiction and that regulation will hamper economic growth and job creation.”


Источник: Wireless Week

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