The Federal Communications Commission on a 3:2 vote adopted principles of what it calls a plan to preserve the open Internet, a move that likely will be met with lawsuits from companies and legislative attacks from some members of Congress.
Commissioners voted along party lines, with Democrats Julius Genachowski, Michael Copps and Mignon Clyburn voting in favor of the order, and Republicans Robert McDowell and Meredith Attwell Baker dissenting.
In general, the rules center on transparency, no blocking of lawful content, services, applications and non-harmful devices. Also, broadband providers cannot display “unreasonable” discrimination, subject to “reasonable” network management. Specialized services over the last mile will be monitored going forward. Wireless broadband providers will be required to not block legitimate content and devices on their networks and must be transparent.
FCC staff said it has the authority to adopt the principles based on the Section 706a of the 1996 Telecom Act, which says the FCC has the “authority and discretion to settle on the best regulatory or deregulatory approach to broadband.”
Dissenting Commissioner McDowell listed four reasons he dissented from the regulations: Nothing is broken on the Internet; the FCC does not have the authority to regulate the Internet; Irreparable harm from the rules will come to consumers and investment; and when there are problems with Internet regulations, existing laws can be used to rectify those problems. “The FCC is not Congress. We cannot make laws,” he said, adding that the FCC was on a collision course with Congress since it circumvented the will of a large majority of Congress. Further, McDowell said he was troubled the FCC dumped 3,000 pages into the public record during the final days before the public comment period closed.
FCC Commissioner Clyburn said she would have extended all of the fixed rules to mobile so consumers who exclusively rely on mobile would have same protections as its fixed counterparts. Likewise, she would have preferred that there is no type of pay-for-priority services be allowed. Likewise, Copps said he considered voting against the order because it doesn’t do enough, but said that voting down the order would have brought the “wheels of network neutrality to a grinding halt for at least the next two years.”
Attwell Baker and McDowell both openly complained that the FCC was pushing the measure through in the 11th hour before a new Congress meets. Both also complained that they got the last draft of the order at around 11:30 p.m. yesterday. “The commission intervened to regulate the Internet because it wanted to, not because it has to,” Attwell Baker said. “Why do we intervene in the one area of the economy that is working?”
The Telecommunications Industry Association said it supports the FCC’s “restraint in its decision to refrain from moving forward with a Title II approach in its Open Internet Order.”
Americans for Prosperity’s VP of Policy Phil Kerpen said: “The FCC has fittingly chosen the darkest day in 372 years to impose potentially devastating regulations on the up-to-now free-market Internet. As the moon was eclipsed earlier today, Congress and the American people will be eclipsed by this regulatory coup d’