FCC Is Revising Internet Rules, Reports Say
WASHINGTON (CN) - Federal Communications Commission Chairman Tom Wheeler is revising proposed rules for regulating broadband Internet before the commission's official vote Thursday.
In 2009, the FCC proposed a rule to prevent telecommunications companies from blocking sites based on their views or whether the site might be competition.
Earlier that year, in Comcast v. FCC, the federal appeals court had struck down the commission's first attempt to enforce network neutrality regulations.
In January, in an appeal brought by Verizon, the D.C. Circuit Court found that the FCC does not have the authority to regulate broadband internet companies because the agency, in 2002, determined that broadband internet is not a "common carrier" like a phone company or other utility, except as to the extent it is involved in telecommunications. Instead, they were called "information services."
Detractors claim the January decision has allowed Internet service providers to make deals with certain companies to give their content a "fast lane" to consumers' computers, for a price.
April 23, the FCC said that, in line with the January decision, it would propose to allow companies, such as Netflix and Google, to pay Internet providers such as Comcast and Verizon for special, faster lanes to send video and other content to their customers.
After public outcry, the next day Wheeler defended his tack in a statement: "The same rules will apply to all Internet content. As with the original open Internet rules, and consistent with the court's decision, behavior that harms consumers or competition will not be permitted."
FCC officials said that under the proposal, broadband providers would have to disclose how they treat all Internet traffic and on what terms they offer more rapid lanes, and would be required to act "in a commercially reasonable manner." Public comment would help to flesh out the standard, they added.
The rule reportedly would require Internet service providers to disclose whether in assigning faster lanes, they have favored their affiliated companies that provide content.
Verizon, a large telecommunications company which is also an Internet service provider, in its challenge to the FCC's orders for net neutrality has claimed a First Amendment right to put anything it wants through its system, saying it has a right to block communication with which it does not agree.
The American Civil Liberties Union, which campaigns for net neutrality, claims the right belongs to the people and companies using the internet, to freely put out and receive information.