[JURIST] The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted Thursday to approve the formation of rules [notice, PDF] mandating so-called "net neutrality" [Google backgrounder; JURIST news archive], promising openness commensurate with the ideals of the Internet itself. The idea of net neutrality, supported unanimously by the FCC commissioners, is to allow an open flow of information over the Internet, regardless of the amount of revenue generated by the information. The implementation of new rules has been vigorously opposed by telecommunications giants Verizon and AT&T [corporate websites], among others, which argue that such rules would inhibit their ability to effectively manage Internet traffic. The FCC at the same time announced a call for public input [press release, PDF] to the process, in order to maximize consumer benefit under the proposed rules. Verizon released a statement [text] in response, calling the new rules an improvement over those previously considered, but renewing its claim that the Internet, as currently constructed, works efficiently.
The issue of net neutrality arises from concerns that broadband providers should not be free to accept money from content providers in exchange for preferential bandwidth treatment or to interfere with the content of competitors. In September, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski proposed new regulations [JURIST report], including preventing Internet providers from discriminating against particular Internet content and ensuring that Internet providers are transparent about their network practices. Last year, the FCC said that it was ready to act [JURIST report] to ensure a proper balance is struck between consumer proponents of net neutrality principles and the telecommunication industry's interest in controlling the flow and content of Internet traffic over its networks. In 2006, the House Judiciary Committee approved [JURIST report] a net neutrality bill [HR 5417 materials] that would have applied federal antitrust law to alleged breaches of net neutrality, but the legislation was never approved by the full House.