The FCC (News - Alert) has narrowly approved a new policy on net neutrality that has been met with a lot of criticism and even speculation that Congress may soon unravel it.
By a 3-2 vote, the Federal Communications Commission paved the way Tuesday to protect net neutrality on broadband networks. Internet service providers (ISPs), such as AT&T or Verizon (News - Alert), will be prevented from blocking access to lawful websites and content, according to media reports. The plan also affects wired broadband providers.
FCC commissioners who are Democrats – Michael Copps, Mignon Clyburn and Julius Genachowski – voted for the plan. Republican commissioners Robert McDowell (News - Alert) and Meredith Attwell Baker were opposed to it.
Politico reported Republican leaders in Congress may try to repeal the FCC’s decision as early as next month, when Republicans take the majority in the House of Representatives. Among those who want to unravel the FCC decision were likely House Republican leaders John Boehner and Eric Cantor, in addition to the likely chairs of the technology and telecom committees, says Politico.
There were also threats to restrict FCC funding or “restrict its jurisdiction,” in response to the net neutrality rules, Politico reported.
In addition, U.S. Rep. John Shimkus (R, Ill.) called the FCC’s plan “a solution in search of a problem.” Shimkus said in a statement that “The Internet is not broken, and the FCC has no legal authority to ‘fix’ it without a directive from Congress.”
“As a sector of the economy free from government interference, the Internet has expanded well beyond anyone’s imagination,” he added. “For average Internet users, this move means the slower roll out of new wired and wireless technologies as well as the slower deployment of high speed networks in underserved parts of the country. … This move discourages capital investment, stifles job creation, and could raise the cost of Internet access.”
However, many Democratic leaders were sympathetic to the proposal. In a statement released by President Barack Obama, he said the FCC’s decision “will help preserve the free and open nature of the Internet while encouraging innovation, protecting consumer choice, and defending free speech” and he described it as “an important component of our overall strategy to advance American innovation, economic growth, and job creation.”
He also noted that “parties on all sides of this issue – from consumer groups to technology companies to broadband providers – came together to make their voices heard.”
However, Tom Tauke, Verizon’s executive vice president of public affairs, policy and communications, said in a statement, that the company was “deeply concerned” about the FCC decision.
“The FCC's majority breaks with years of bipartisan communications policies that recognized that Internet innovation and investment – and the jobs they create – thrive without government intervention,” Tauke said. “America's broadband and Internet marketplace is intensely competitive and an engine of economic growth, job creation and multibillion-dollar investment.”
"The FCC's decision apparently reaches far beyond the net neutrality rules,” Tauke added. “The FCC appears to assert broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband wireline and wireless networks and the Internet itself. This assertion of authority without solid statutory underpinnings will yield continued uncertainty for industry, innovators, and investors. In the long run, that is harmful to consumers and the nation.”
He also suggested that Congress may take up the issue.
Even some of those who strongly support net neutrality found fault with the FCC’s plan. For example, Free Press Managing Director Craig Aaron said he was “deeply disappointed” the FCC ignored “the overwhelming public support for real net neutrality, instead moving forward with industry-written rules that will for the first time in Internet history allow discrimination online.”
“This proceeding was a squandered opportunity to enact clear, meaningful rules to safeguard the Internet’s level playing field and protect consumers,” he added. “The new rules are riddled with loopholes, evidence that the chairman [Genachowski] sought approval from AT&T (News - Alert) instead of listening to the millions of Americans who asked for real Net Neutrality. 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.”
Many observers are watching how the plan will be applied in practice. For example, TMCnet Chief Technology Officer Tom Keating (News - Alert) said in his blog, “the devil is always in the details” and he ponders whether the move by the FCC was even “necessary.”Ed Silverstein is a TMCnet contributor. To read more of his articles, please visit his columnist page.
Edited by Tammy Wolf