Commentary

Dems Push FCC For Stronger Neutrality Rules

With only days remaining before the Federal Communications Commission votes on neutrality principles, lawmakers are stepping up efforts to shape the potential rules.

Today, five Democrats, led by Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) urged the FCC to move away from the compromise position set out several weeks ago by Chairman Julius Genachowski and instead support stronger rules.

Genachowski recently proposed prohibiting wireline Internet service providers from blocking traffic or from unreasonable discrimination, while also requiring them to inform consumers about traffic management practices. But Genachowski didn't propose applying the same mandates to mobile broadband. Instead, wireless broadband providers would be banned from blocking traffic and would be required to provide transparency to consumers.

Markey and the other Democrats -- Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Mike Doyle (D-Penn.), Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and John Lewis (D-Ga.) -- said in a letter to Genachowski that any rules should apply equally to wireless and wireline providers.

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"Exclusion of wireless services from open Internet requirements could stifle ... growth, as inconsistent and substandard treatment of traffic transported wirelessly likely would frustrate consumers, who would have different and uneven experiences depending solely on the connection that their mobile devices might use to reach the Internet," they write, adding: "An Internet framework excluding wireless from important consumer safeguards could impede attainment of national broadband goals."

Numerous advocacy groups have criticized Genachowski's compromise position, as has Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.), who argues that weak rules could effectively legitimize any practices that aren't banned.

Some Republican lawmakers, meanwhile, continue to argue that no new laws at all are necessary.

The FCC is slated to vote on neutrality principles at its Dec. 21 meeting.

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