Sara Jerome at The Hill:
After nearly a decade of battle, the Federal Communications Commission approved contentious net-neutrality regulations on Tuesday over the strong objections of two Republican commissioners.
The vote marks the first time the agency has created formal rules for Internet lines, fulfilling an Obama campaign promise to prevent phone and cable companies from exerting too much control over the Internet.
“As we stand here now, the freedom and openness of the Internet are unprotected … That will change once we vote to approve this strong and balanced order,” FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said at a commission meeting on Tuesday.
Tuesday’s vote closes a long chapter for Genachowski, after he sped out of the gates last year promising strong net-neutrality protections.
He quickly drew the wrath of the telecommunications industry and the skepticism of both parties in Congress, while frustrating consumer groups as his promises became mired in delay.
Ryan Kim at Gigaom:
The Open Internet Coalition, which includes Google, Skype and others Internet companies said the order addresses some important issues in protecting an open Internet and providing some stable rules for the Internet ecosystem. But Markham Erickson, Executive Director of OIC said the order still does not go far enough in protecting the wireless Internet, which has great potential for consumers, innovators and the economy.
“The Commission should move to apply the same rules of the road to the entire Internet moving forward,” Erickson said in a statement. “We will continue to monitor the progress under this rule and work to ensure the FCC fulfills its responsibility to protect consumers’, small businesses’ and nonprofits’ ability to fully access and enjoy the benefits of the open Internet.”
Christopher Libertelli, Skype’s senior director of government & regulatory affairs said the Internet communications company is generally pleased with the trade-offs in the FCC’s rules.
“On balance, this decision advances the goal of keeping the Internet an open and unencumbered medium for Skype users. Specifically, we support the Commission’s decision that it will not tolerate wireless carriers who arbitrarily block Skype on mobile devices. This decision protects a consumer’s entitlement to use Skype on their mobile devices and we look forward to delivering further innovation in this area.”
Free Press, a media advocacy group, called the new rules a squandered opportunity that was heavily influenced by the Internet service providers the FCC should be regulating. Rather than protect an open Internet, the new order will enable discrimination for the first time, said Free Press Managing Director Craig Aaron.
“These rules don’t do enough to stop the phone and cable companies from dividing the Internet into fast and slow lanes, and they fail to protect wireless users from discrimination. No longer can you get to the same Internet via your mobile device as you can via your laptop. The rules pave the way for AT&T to block your access to third-party applications and to require you to use its own preferred applications.”
Mike Wendy, director of MediaFreedom, a market-oriented media organization said the new rules were unwarranted regulation of the Internet, the result of an over-reaching agency. He said the order could undermine U.S. competitiveness if not overturned in the courts or by Congress.
“If not overturned… these new regulations will harm the roll out of Internet infrastructure and services. Moreover, they will take America backwards at a time when our economy needs every advantage it can get to provide jobs for Americans, and compete globally,” Wendy said in a blog post.
Alexia Tsotsis at Tech Crunch:
What was actually voted on today has still yet to be published, but according to reports it lays out two different frameworks for fixed broadband and mobile broadband traffic. In both cases carriers like Comcast or Verizon will need to provide transparency to customers and will be prohibited from blocking competing services such Google Voice or Skype.
The discrepancy between the way the two different services are handled and the precise meaning of “reasonable network management practices” is what has the opposition in a huff. Initial reports of the regulations describe them as explicitly forbidding providers to accept pay for unreasonable traffic prioritization in the case of broadband and offering no such protections in the case of mobile broadband.
If today’s vote has succeeded in anything it is in creating debate as to whether or not the FCC has ultimate authority to regulate Internet practices. Republicans have already started to make noise about blocking the regulations when a more Republican Congress takes over in January. McDowell has also hinted at potential blocks from courts “the F.C.C. has provocatively chartered a collision course with the legislative branch.”
This is not without precedent: A federal appeals court ruling against the FCC in April quashed the FCC’s authority as it attempted to enforce net neutrality principles against Comcast for discriminating against file sharing.
Nilay Patel at Engadget
Peter Suderman at Reason:
Genachowski’s remarks portrayed the rules as a moderate middle ground between the extremes. It was a decision driven not by ideology but the desire to “protect basic Internet values.” If it’s a middle ground, it’s a legally dubious one. Earlier this year, a federal court ruled that the FCC had no Congressionally granted authority to regulate network management. Congress hasn’t updated the agency’s authority over the Net since then, but the FCC is now saying that, well, it has the authority anyway. Genachowski’s team has come up with a different legal justification, and they’re betting that this time around they can convince a judge to buy it.
Still, Genachowski’s portrayal of the order may be half right: The FCC’s move on net neutrality is not really about ideology. It’s about authority: He’s not so much protecting values as expanding the FCC’s regulatory reach. According to Genachowski’s summary remarks, the new rules call for a prohibition on “unreasonable discrimination” by Internet Service Providers—with the FCC’s regulators, natch, in charge of determining what counts as unreasonable. In theory, this avoids the pitfalls that come with strict rules. But in practice, it gives the FCC the power to unilaterally and arbitrarily decide which network management innovations and practices are acceptable—and which ones aren’t.
It’s the tech-sector bureaucrat’s equivalent of declaring, Judge Dredd style, “I am the law!” Indeed, Genachowski has said before—and reiterated today—that the rules will finally give the FCC the authority to play “cop on the beat” for the Internet.
The comparison may not be quite as comforting as he seems to think. But it is telling: Genachowski may not be eager to tell the public exactly what the Internet’s new rules of the road are, but he’s mighty eager to have his agency enforce them.
Scarecrow at Firedoglake:
’ll leave to Tim Karr and others to describe the technical features and sell outs that have allowed the Western World’s Worst internet/broadband structure to become slower, more expensive and more discriminatory than services in other countries. Senator Al Franken gave an excellent speech, worth watching on the full range of policy issues.
It may help to have an analogous framework on how to think about what corporate capture of the internet and broadband service means, not just in terms of speed and coverage but in terms of content and pricing. It’s not just that our service is slower and we face monopoly pricing, it’s that a tiny handful of corporations are seizing control of what we’ll be allowed to watch and read.
Suppose that President Eisenhower had proposed we build an interstate highway system, but we’d allow only three or four large corporations to carve up and own all the main interconnections, determine the tolls and decide who got to drive on them during which hours. The corporations could also decide where the on/off ramps were, which communities they did or didn’t serve, where the routes went, depending on which provided better tax breaks.
And suppose these same companies owned a couple of auto companies, and they could decide whether cars and trucks made by their affiliate companies got better access, more lanes, higher speeds and lower tolls than cars/trucks sold by competitors.
Then suppose the Justice Department and the FTC did not think it their job to enforce the anti-trust laws of the United States, while the federal highway regulators did not believe they should have rules requiring open access, fair pricing, and non-discrimination.
Welcome to the forthcoming US policy on broadband/internet access.