Tags: Net Neutrality | FCC | net neutrality | rules | Tom Wheeler

FCC Releases New Net Neutrality Rules

By    |   Thursday, 12 March 2015 05:58 PM

The FCC released its new net neutrality rules on Thursday, two weeks after voting to regulate the Internet as a public utility company and leading Republicans to slam them as a government takeover of the Web.

In analyzing the more than 300-page document, The New York Times reports singled out the rule allowing the commission to decide what is acceptable on a per-case basis. The guidelines also include a subjective catchall provision, requiring "just and reasonable" conduct, the Times reports.

The rules, passed Feb. 26 on a 3-2 vote along party lines, reclassifies Internet services as Title II telecommunications services, which is a regulatory designation akin to that of a utility. The designation would bring stricter scrutiny to Internet providers.

The regulations also give the FCC new authority to police Internet privacy issues, the Times reports. That generally falls under the Federal Trade Commission.

Proposed by Democratic FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler, the regulations seek to prevent conglomerates from consolidating control over the flow of online content. The reclassification was heavily favored by public interest groups, Hollywood content creators, and a large number of Web companies that included Netflix and Twitter.

Wheeler had said that his changes would give the commission the authority to impose rules over Internet service. They would prohibit Internet service providers (ISPs) from blocking or throttling content, and from collecting payments from content providers for speedier access to subscribers.

The latter has been commonly referred to as the idea that ISPs would eventually create Internet "fast lanes."

The commission's two other Democrats, Jessica Rosenworcel and Mignon Clyburn, also supported Wheeler's recommendations. They were opposed by Republicans Ajit Pai and Michael O'Rielly.

The day before the vote, Wheeler refused to appear before the House Oversight Committee to discuss the changes. The panel is chaired by Utah GOP Rep. Jason Chaffetz.

Republicans blasted the new rules, with Tennessee Rep. Marsha Blackburn telling Newsmax the day the changes were approved that they represented "a Trojan horse for a government takeover of the Internet."

Last week, Blackburn introduced legislation, with 19 co-sponsors, to limit the commission's authority and rescind the new regulations.

"If there are net neutrality rules, it’s something to be done by Congress, not the FCC," Blackburn told the Times on Thursday. "They’re on our turf, and we need to reclaim it."

She added that commission was applying Title II regulations but would still be picking and choosing certain companies to exempt from certain rules, like paying to prioritize traffic.

"What they’re trying to do is set up a scheme whereby they can pick winners and losers," Blackburn told the Times.

She also expressed concerns about whether the commission has the capacity to manage and adjudicate one-time petitions for Internet service. The agency has not requested an increase to its legal budget for next year, the Times reports.

James Speta, a Northwestern University law professor, said he believed that the FCC had the legal authority to pass the new rules, but he questioned whether commissioners had gone too far.

Still, "courts don’t usually get in the business of second-guessing an agency’s policy," Speta, who specializes in telecommunications and Internet policy, told the Times.

"They’re focused on whether the agency has authority, and I think they’re on firm footing."

He added that any legal challenges would most likely focus on the FCC's fundamental move to reclassify Internet service as a utility.

"Though this seems like the end of a 15-year process, with the FCC issuing these rules," Speta said, "it’s actually the beginning of the interesting work of determining how the regulation might work."

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The FCC released its new net neutrality rules on Thursday, two weeks after voting to regulate the Internet as a public utility company and leading Republicans to slam them as a government takeover of the Web.
FCC, net neutrality, rules, Tom Wheeler
Thursday, 12 March 2015 05:58 PM
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