FCC Releases the Open Internet Order, aka Net Neutrality Rules

By TAP Staff Blogger

Posted on December 21, 2010


The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) presented their Open Internet Order today. Often referred to as “network neutrality,” the release of the FCC rules has been greatly anticipated and debated at length in congress (Senate Judiciary Committee hearing: The Comcast/NBC Universal Merger: What Does the Future Hold for Competition and Consumers?), U.S. District Court (Comcast Corporation vs. FCC), academic circles (Tim Wu, Jonathan Zittrain, and Other TAP Scholars Join in Recent Net Neutrality Debate), and the media (Is the FCC Going to Pass a Final Rule on Net Neutrality? and see below as well). These rules were developed following a public rulemaking process that began in fall 2009 and included input from more than 100,000 individuals and organizations and several public workshops.

In essence, what the FCC presented is a set of basic rules of the road for “preserving the open Internet as a platform for innovation, investment, competition, and free expression.” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, in presenting the Order:

Innovation at the edge catalyzes consumer demand for broadband.  Consumer demand spurs private investment in faster broadband networks.  And faster networks spark ever-cooler innovation at the edge.

I believe our action today will foster an ongoing cycle of massive investment, innovation and consumer demand both at the edge and in the core of our broadband networks. 

Watch the Commission’s meeting from earlier today. On FCC > Live, select Open Commission Meeting from December 21, 2010.

Here is a snapshot of the reactions to today’s rules.

Net Neutrality Rules Approved By Divided FCC (The Huffington Post)

A divided Federal Communications Commission has approved new rules meant to prohibit broadband companies from interfering with Internet traffic flowing to their customers. The 3-2 vote Tuesday marks a major victory for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who has spent more than a year trying to craft a compromise. The FCC's three Democrats voted to pass the rules, while the two Republicans opposed them, calling them unnecessary regulation. The new rules are likely to face intense scrutiny on Capitol Hill once Republicans take over the House. Meanwhile, public interest groups decried the regulations as too weak, particularly for wireless systems.

Net Neutrality Approved by FCC (National Journal)

The FCC’s Democrats approved new “network neutrality” rules for the Internet today on a 3-2 party-line vote. The regulations, which have sparked considerable controversy in Washington and nationwide, are designed to ensure that the Internet is not dominated by major telecommunications and cable companies. The rules prohibit anticompetitive blocking and degrading of competing online services, and are enforceable by the agency. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski insisted his plan creates a "nonideological framework" that would "increase certainty" for investors leery about the lack of rules governing the Web. But Republicans on the commission and on Capitol Hill say the new restrictions are unnecessary, while some prominent watchdogs complain they don’t go far enough to protect consumers and smaller competitors.

Verizon Weighing Lawsuit Against FCC (National Journal)

Multiple sources have told National Journal that Verizon, the nation's second largest telecommunications carrier, may seek to overturn the historic open Internet rules… The company will review the details of the new "network neutrality" rules set for adoption by the agency's three Democratic regulators to gauge its next move.

FCC Approves Compromise Net Neutrality Rules (PC World)

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission, in a historic vote Tuesday, approved network neutrality rules prohibiting broadband providers from blocking customer access to legal Web content, but many consumer groups decried the new regulations as weak and full of loopholes.

The new rules provide fewer protections for mobile broadband subscribers and may lead to a fractured Internet, critics said. The rules, a compromise championed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, would bar wireline-based broadband providers--but not mobile broadband providers--from "unreasonable discrimination" against Web traffic, prompting some consumer groups to call the rules "fake" net neutrality. … The FCC will not prohibit mobile carriers from unreasonable discrimination, with commissioners instead saying they will watch the industry for evidence of problems. The rules will prohibit mobile providers from blocking voice and other applications that compete with their services, but will not prohibit them from blocking other applications.