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FCC Takes Another Crack at Net Neutrality

By Josh Long
April 24, 2014 - News

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is proposing Net neutrality regulations in another attempt to prevent blocking of legal content and unreasonable favoritism of certain Internet traffic.

Critics on Thursday immediately blasted Wheeler's proposal, griping that it will authorize Internet providers like AT&T, Comcast and Verizon to charge fees to content companies for the right to prioritize traffic.

"Not only is this simply another way for ISPs to charge additional fees for a service that they are already getting paid to deliver, it also allows those companies to take advantage of their positions as gatekeepers to pick winners and losers online," said Sarah Morris, senior policy counsel for the Open Technology Institute at New America Foundation, in a statement.

Free Press, an organization that advocates for affordable Internet access, said the proposed regulations would kill the open Internet.

"Giving ISPs the green light to implement pay-for-priority schemes will be a disaster for startups, nonprofits and everyday Internet users who cannot afford these unnecessary tolls," Free Press President and CEO Craig Aaron said in a statement. "These users will all be pushed onto the Internet dirt road, while deep-pocketed Internet companies enjoy the benefits of the newly created fast lanes. This is not Net neutrality. It's an insult to those who care about preserving the open Internet to pretend otherwise."

Responding to a "great deal of misinformation," Wheeler said the proposal is in line with the objectives of previous FCC regulations that were challenged in federal court. The actual proposal hasn't been made public.

"The Notice does not change the underlying goals of transparency, no blocking of lawful content, and no unreasonable discrimination among users established by the 2010 Rule," Wheeler wrote in a blog. "The Notice does follow the road map established by the Court as to how to enforce rules of the road that protect an Open Internet and asks for further comments on the approach."

In late 2010, under former FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, the commission issued an order prohibiting fixed broadband providers from blocking lawful content, applications and services and unreasonably discriminating on their networks.

Those regulations, known more formally as the "Open Internet Order," were overturned following a successful legal challenge by Verizon Communications Inc.

In January, a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., ruled the FCC was unlawfully seeking to subject broadband providers to "common carrier" regulations even though the agency classified the companies differently.

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