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FCC Clarifies Stance On Broadband And Net Neutrality

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An official from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) confirmed that the agency has filed its rules on net neutrality to the Federal Register for publishing. Once it is formally published, opposing parties can file legal challenges to question the ruling.

Prior to the filing, a specialized briefing was held for state and local governments where the FCC made further clarifications, covering the issue on municipal broadband and network neutrality. The briefing, which lasted for an hour, discussed the rationale behind FCC's decision to vacate state restrictions on broadband. It also tackled the agency's controversial decision to use the provisions stated in Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 in their bid to regulate Internet access.

Several groups are expected to file legal challenges against the agency's new ruling once it is published. These include the American Cable Association (ACA) and USTelecom.

The agency's filing came a week and a half after the first wave of lawsuits that attempted to question - and eventually block - the new rules on net neutrality. According to an FCC official, the lawsuits came from Alamo Broadband and USTelecom. However, it is highly likely that the lawsuits would be dismissed since they were filed merely 12 days after the new rules were initially published.

The FCC used Title II of the Communications Act of 1934 as its basis for regulating Internet access. On the issue of net neutrality, also known as "Open Internet Rules," the agency wanted to apply the so-called "light-touch" regulation of the Internet, believing that such move would result in a heightened competition among carriers.

Moreover, the agency wanted to ensure that American citizens are given unfiltered access to the web and that speed throttling or paid prioritization would not in any way influence such type of access.

"By this, we mean that broadband providers may not favor some lawful Internet traffic over others in exchange or consideration of any kind," said Claude Aiken, deputy chief of the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau's Competition Policy Division. "In other words, no fast lanes. This rule also bans ISPs from prioritizing content and services of their affiliates."

Aiken also stated some of the provisions in Title II that do not apply to the open Internet ruling. These include provisions that deal with tariffing, rate regulation and unbundling.

It appears as though most telecom executives, which include those from Verizon and AT&T, are supportive of the principles on unblocking web traffic. What they are against is the FCC's decision to use Title II of the Communications Act in regulating broadband service.

Photo: Backbone Campaign | Flickr

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