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FCC Plans to Write New Net Neutrality Rules

In an encouraging development for Web content companies, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler announced that the agency will draft a new set of traffic rules for Internet service providers.
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Federal Communications Commission chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday outlined new net neutrality rules for Internet service providers.

The proposed rules come more than a month after a federal appeals court struck down regulations the commission had put in place to ensure that service providers treat all Web traffic equally.

In his statement, Wheeler said his agency will not appeal the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit's January 14 decision in Verizon v. FCC, which gives the agency "the legal authority to issue enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness."

However, the ruling also overturned the FCC's 2010 Open Internet Order, which entrepreneurs fear will allow broadband providers like Verizon, AT&T, and Comcast to function as tollbooth operators that offer "fast lanes" and "slow lanes" for content based on what users are willing to pay. 

Wheeler's statement noted the FCC's desire to prevent a situation where some entrepreneurs may get priced out of speedy Web traffic.

"Recently in Los Angeles, I talked to startup entrepreneurs who produce video to meet consumers' growing desire for programming. Their companies may succeed or they may fail depending on whether they are truly creative and innovative. But they and other innovators cannot be judged on their own merits if they are unfairly prevented from harnessing the full power of the Internet, which would harm the virtuous cycle of innovation that has benefited consumers, edge providers [i.e., companies that provide goods and services over the Internet], and broadband networks. This is why the FCC's exercise of its authority to protect an open Internet is important. Today we initiate several steps to ensure that."

Below are the three proposed rules that Wheeler says are meant to ensure that "the Internet remains a platform for innovation, economic growth, and free expression."

Enforce and Enhance the Transparency Rule

The court affirmed the Open Internet Order's transparency rule, Wheeler says, which mandates that Internet service providers disclose how they manage traffic. "We should consider ways to make that rule even more effective. For example, an explicit purpose of the rule is to afford edge providers the technical information they need to create and maintain their products and services as well as to assess the risks and benefits of embarking on new projects," he said in his statement.

Fulfill the "No Blocking" Goal

Although the court agreed on the importance of the Open Internet Order's ban on blocking traffic, it still ruled the FCC has not provided legal rationale for the ban. "We will carefully consider how, consistent with the court opinion, we can ensure that edge providers are not unfairly blocked, explicitly or implicitly, from reaching consumers, as well as ensuring that consumers can continue to access any lawful content and services they choose," Wheeler said.

Uphold the Non-discrimination Rule

Wheeler said the FCC will study how Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which gives the agency authority over competition in the broadband space, can be used to protect and promote an open Internet in a way that complies with the court's decision. "We will consider (1) setting an enforceable legal standard that provides guidance and predictability to edge providers, consumers, and broadband providers alike; (2) evaluating on a case-by-case basis whether that standard is met; and (3) identifying key behaviors by broadband providers that the Commission would view with particular skepticism," Wheeler said. 

To see the rest of the steps the FCC plans to take, click here.

IMAGE: Getty Images
Last updated: Feb 19, 2014

WILL YAKOWICZ | Staff Writer | Reporter, Inc.com

Will Yakowicz is a staff writer for Inc. magazine. He has covered business, crime, and local politics for The Brooklyn Paper and was the editor of Park Slope Patch. He has also reported in the West Bank and Moscow for Tablet Magazine. He lives in Brooklyn, New York.




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