Despite Opposition From All Sides, FCC Pushing Ahead On Net Neutrality Proposal


The Federal Communications Commission has placed a controversial net neutrality proposal on the agenda for its meeting next Tuesday.

The proposal, put forward by Chairman Julius Genachowski, faces opposition from consumer advocates who criticize it as weak, as well as from some Republican lawmakers, who condemn it as unnecessary.

Genachowski's plan would prohibit wireline Internet service providers from blocking traffic or from unreasonable discrimination, while also requiring them to inform consumers about traffic management practices. But Genachowski is not recommending that the same mandates apply to broadband providers.

In addition, Genachowski isn't proposing reclassifying broadband access as a Title II telecommunications service. Absent such a move, however, the FCC's authority to impose any neutrality rules is in doubt. Earlier this year, an appellate court vacated the FCC's decision to sanction Comcast for throttling peer-to-peer traffic, ruling that the agency can't enforce neutrality principles as long as broadband is considered a Title I information service.

Advocacy groups like Free Press and Public Knowledge are pushing the FCC to impose neutrality regulations on mobile broadband providers. Some GOP lawmakers, however, have said they oppose any neutrality rules, including Genachowski's recent proposal.

Earlier on Tuesday, Genachowski signaled his intention to bring the proposal to a vote. "It's essential that we move forward next week to adopt the first enforceable rules of the road to protect Internet freedom," he said in an address at McKinley Technology High School in Washington, D.C.

He held up Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Google co-founder Sergey Brin as entrepreneurs who benefited from neutrality principles. "Neither of them had to ask permission to launch their Web sites, and if any of you want to follow your dreams online, you shouldn't have to either," he said.

Zuckerberg and Brin both launched their companies prior to 2005, when Internet service providers followed the same common carrier rules as telephone companies. That year the U.S. Supreme Court approved an FCC decision to deregulate broadband, which arguably paved the way for ISPs to block content.

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