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House Tries to Stop FCC from Enforcing Net Neutrality Rules

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Just when you thought Net neutrality was going to be the law of the land soon, Washington politics intervene. Now it looks as if the highly charged political atmosphere in Washington could put the enforcement of the FCC’s proposed Net neutrality rules on hold or even kill them altogether. Today, an amendment to the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representative’s budget proposal for 2012 passed the House vote that would ban the FCC from using any part of its budget for enacting the newly proposed Net neutrality rules. The amendment was proposed by Republican representative Greg Walden of Oregon, the chairman of the Subcommittee on Communications and Technology. The amendment passed the House by a vote of 244-181. Votes were mostly along party lines.

Here is the short summary of amendment #404:

The amendment would prohibit the use of funds made available by this Act to be used to implement the Report and Order of the Federal Communications Commission relating to the matter of preserving the open Internet and broadband industry practices.

In a press release issued after the amendment passed, Walden argued that “we all want an open and thriving Internet. That Internet exists today. Consumers can access anything they want with the click of a mouse thanks to our historical hands-off approach. I am pleased that my colleagues in the House accepted my amendment to ensure the FCC does not have the funds to implement the controversial Internet regulations.”

Once the House passes its version of the budget, it will have to be reconciled with the version of the Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats.

It would probably be hard to argue that banning the FCC from enforcing Net neutrality rules would do anything to reduce the forecasted $1.4 trillion deficit. While most Democrats and President Obama are generally in favor of giving the FCC control over enforcing strict Net neutrality regulations, this year’s budget discussion will likely become extremely heated and Net neutrality could just fall to the wayside in these debates.



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In Short: What's in the New FCC Net Neutrality Rules?

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The FCC just approved new net neutrality regulations in a close 3-2 vote.

Here are the basic rules for the new net neutrality rules as established under the new FCC order:

  • Wired broadband providers “may not unreasonably discriminate any lawful traffic.”
    • This rule does not apply to wireless providers, so AT&T could still slow your iPhone’s Youtube streams down if it feels like it is in its best interest to do so. Basically, this rule creates two classes of service that are subject to different rules: wired and wireless broadband.
  • Broadband providers will have to disclose their network management activities to consumers. So if your ISP is slowing down your BitTorrent traffic, it will have to be transparent about it.
  • ISPs (wired and wireless) can’t block traffic and websites on the Internet. Wireless carriers also aren’t allowed to block apps and services that compete with their own voice and video services.
  • Nothing in the order bans “pay-for-priority,” so carriers could still ask Google, for example, to pay a fee for faster service. The FCC says that it will assess this situation on a “case-by-case” basis, however.

Note: All of this isn’t the law of the land yet, however. Congress is still debating if the FCC even has the authority to establish and enforce these rules. As ZDNet’s Larry Dignan puts it, net neutrality will now become “a political hot potato in Congress. The FCC wants to be the Internet traffic cop, but Congress has never really authorized it to take such a role. That debate will pick up with a new Congress in January.”


Here is the full statement FCC Chair Julius Genachwski made ahead of today’s vote:

Net neutrality statement by Julius Genachowski, the FCC chair, on Dec. 21, 2010

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