FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler Vows to Protect Open Internet

The Federal Communications Commission voted on May 15 to proceed with a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on network neutrality. The new proposed rules consider multiple pathways to broadband regulation and increase the Commission’s oversight of open Internet principles.

The FCC now seeks comment on two specific ways to protect the open Internet, which are outlined in the proposal. The first relies on the belief of some that the FCC has power to broadly regulate issues in the public interest — such as Internet access — under Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996.

The second consists of reclassifying broadband services under Title II of the Communications Act, which would then subject companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T to “common carrier” regulation, meaning Internet access is provided to consumers under license or authority of a regulatory body – such as traditional landline phone service.

In addition, the proposed rules contain provisions that require broadband providers to disclose any practices that could change a consumer’s relationship with the network. It also creates an ombudsman position in the FCC where consumers can file complaints about questionable Internet provider actions. The ombudsman would have authority to investigate the claims and address the issue on behalf of consumers.

Comments on the proposal are due by July 15.

During the FCC’s Open Commission meeting, Chairman Tom Wheeler and Commissioner Mignon Clyburn stressed that the rules are just a proposal and not final. They encouraged parties to use the commentary period to help them shape the Internet’s future.

The proposed rules are a response to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling that struck down federal rules that had previously barred broadband providers from favoring some sites and slowing down or blocking others. The Jan. 14 decision enabled providers to potentially censor content or favor companies that may pay providers more to feature their content.

In the ruling, however, the court affirmed that the FCC has the legal authority to issue enforceable rules to preserve Internet freedom and openness. So instead of appealing the court’s ruling, the Commission is taking up the challenge of drafting net neutrality rules that will survive judicial scrutiny.

Not all the commissioners were on the same page, however. Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel said she supports an open Internet, but felt the FCC shouldn’t have rushed to put on a proposed rule. She noted that since the Jan. 14 court ruling, there has been a — For more information read the original article here.    

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