The Federal Communications Commission today approved controversial “Net Neutrality” rules that supporters claim will keep Internet access open for consumer, whereas critics claim the regulations are either a gift to broadband providers or a means for dramatic government regulation of the Web.
The F.C.C. indicated that the rules would not be published in full until later in the week. In short, the rules will forbid fixed-line broadband providers like Comcast and Qwest from blocking access to sites and applications. The rules would allow wireless companies like Verizon and AT&T more latitude in putting limits on access to services and applications.
But a wide swath of public interest groups have lambasted his proposal as “fake net neutrality” and said that it was rife with loopholes. On Tuesday, one such group, the Media Access Project, said, “There is a reason that so many giant phone and cable companies are happy, and we are not. These rules are riddled with loopholes. They foreshadow years of uncertainty and regulatory confusion, which those carriers will use to their advantage.”
There’s more dissension. Others, often Republicans, say the FCC went beyond its proper authority in even making rules. Whereas Net Neutrality advocates, as this writer understands the issue, want the government to stop Internet providers from blocking or stopping access to content, opponents of the new rule describe the FCC’s action as a government takeover of Internet freedom.
Republicans at the FCC and on Capitol Hill blasted the FCC’s new rules, saying that they could stifle new investments in broadband networks and are unnecessary since there have been few complaints about Internet providers blocking or slowing web traffic.
The FCC’s action “is not motivated by a tangible competitive harm or market failure,” said Commissioner Meredith Attwell Baker, a Republican, who said she couldn’t support the rule because the agency was intervening to regulate the Internet “because it wants to, not because it needs to.”
The rules passed Tuesday are also likely to be legally challenged, and it isn’t clear if they will be upheld. Congress has never given the FCC explicit authority to regulate Internet lines, so the agency is using older rules to justify its authority.
Net Neutrality is an issue involving the Internet and is often discussed on the Internet, which means the public debate on the topic is always discussed with the utmost civility. Experts on both sides of the debate always do their best to ensure that readers lacking technical backgrounds in telecommunications technology and the law are able to understand the difficult issue.