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FCC outlines plan for new net neutrality rules following court ruling

updated 03:57 pm EST, Wed February 19, 2014

Will not appeal ruling voiding key net neutrality rules

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) will not appeal a court ruling that declared key parts of its net neutrality rules invalid. As part of its attempt to rectify the situation left by the Verizon court case, the FCC is working on rewriting the rules, so that they can "meet the court's test for preventing improper blocking of and discrimination among Internet traffic."

The rules were struck down in a 2-1 decision in mid-January, on the basis that the FCC chose to "classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers," something the Communications Act prevents the Commission from doing. While the blocking rules were voided by the court, it chose to allow transparency portions of the Open Internet Order to continue, namely requiring providers to disclose how they manage traffic.

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler
FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler

A statement from FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler declares "Preserving the Internet as an open platform for innovation and expression while providing certainty and predictability in the marketplace is an important responsibility of this agency." The statement goes on to state the FCC and its commissions will work out ways to enforce and enhance the still-alive transparency rule, and to "fulfill the 'no blocking' goal" of the rules, while taking into account the court's ruling and reasoning.

The Washington Post notes the FCC will be attempting to use Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act in order to regulate broadband infrastructure deployment, something which could logically take into account bandwidth management systems that have the potential to restrict or block traffic from specific sources. The FCC has started to solicit public commentary over the rules, under a new docket titled "Protecting and Promoting the Open Internet."

In the same statement, Wheeler states the FCC will look at competition between broadband providers, with a focus on "legal restrictions on the ability of cities and towns to offer broadband services to consumers in their communities." These rules could be used to prevent alternative services, such as Google Fiber and small Internet providers, from becoming available in areas where various state-level laws prevent it.

Wheeler ends the statement by asking the FCC to "stand strongly behind its responsibility to oversee the public interest standard and ensure that the Internet remains open and fair," calling the Internet "the greatest engine of free expression, innovation, economic growth, and opportunity the world has ever known."

Verizon spokesperson Edward McFadden opted not to comment to the Washington Post over the FCC's proposals, instead claiming "Verizon remains committed to an open Internet that provides consumers with competitive choices and unblocked access to lawful websites and content when, where, and how they want."

by MacNN Staff



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