The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website; JURIST news archive] on Wednesday proposed new rules [text, PDF] for promoting openness on the Internet. The proposed regulations, if adopted by Congress, would be the first open Internet rules in the nation. The proposal would require transparency of Internet broadband networks to help consumers make better decisions about services, preserve open access to all lawful Internet content and protect freedom of speech in the "marketplace of ideas" online. FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski [official profile] stressed the potential impact of the plan:
This framework, if adopted later this month, would advance a set of core goals: It would ensure that the Internet remains a powerful platform for innovation and job creation; it would empower consumers and entrepreneurs; it would protect free expression; it would increase certainty in the marketplace, and spur investment both at the edge and in the core of our broadband networks.The plans also set a national goal for achieving universal high-speed Internet in the near future. Telecommunications companies may oppose [Reuters report] the new rules, having previously questioned the scope of the FCC's power in regulating the Internet. The FCC will vote on the proposal on December 21.
The FCC has been trying to exert more control over Internet regulation. In July, US Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) [official website] introduced legislation [text, PDF; JURIST report] intended to block the FCC from implementing its National Broadband Plan [official website; materials]. The Freedom for Consumer Choice Act would remove the FCC's ability to declare the actions of a communications provider illegal unless there was a clear showing that the practice causes harm to consumers and will not be corrected by market forces. A month earlier, the FCC opened a new proceeding [JURIST report] to identify the legal approach that will best support its efforts to develop universal access to "high quality" Internet broadband services. A previous court ruling [JURIST report] found that the FCC lacks the power to enforce net neutrality [JURIST news archive]. Net neutrality, which is unanimously supported [JURIST report] by the FCC's commissioners, is thought by supporters to be essential to the goal of an open flow of information over the Internet regardless of the amount of revenue generated by the information. Telecommunications companies Verizon, AT&T and Comcast [corporate websites] argue that net neutrality would inhibit their ability to effectively manage Internet traffic.