FCC chairman proposes regulating Internet like a public utility
FCC chairman proposes regulating Internet like a public utility

[JURIST] Federal Communications Commission (FCC) [official website] Chairman Tom Wheeler on Wednesday proposed new federal rules [fact sheet, PDF] to regulate the Internet like a public utility to “preserve and protect the open Internet as a place for innovation and free expression.” The approach is known as net neutrality, a notion endorsed by President Barack Obama [official website]. It would prohibit broadband service providers from blocking access to legal content, slowing delivery speed based on content or source or favoring providers with preferential delivery speeds. The rules would apply equally to wired, wireless and mobile broadband service providers. Wheeler discussed his proposal in an essay [text] posted online by Wired magazine:

These enforceable, bright-line rules will ban paid prioritization, and the blocking and throttling of lawful content and services. I propose to fully apply—for the first time ever—those bright-line rules to mobile broadband. My proposal assures the rights of internet users to go where they want, when they want, and the rights of innovators to introduce new products without asking anyone’s permission.

While Internet companies are pleased to hear Chairman Wheeler’s proposal, the National Cable and Telecommunications Association [official website] said the rules would impose a heavy burden of utility regulation on the Internet. The chairman’s proposal will be voted on February 26 at the FCC’s open meeting.

Net neutrality has emerged as a major political issue in the US and internationally. In November Obama said [statement] that he strongly supports the concept of net neutrality. In May the FCC adopted [JURIST report] new Internet traffic rules in light of a recent court decision [opinion, PDF] that struck down former rules requiring broadband providers to employ nondiscriminatory practices in the treatment of Internet content. In April the European Parliament approved [JURIST report] a net neutrality proposal that prohibits Internet service providers from enhancing or restricting services for selected Internet traffic. The proposed law, approved by a 534-25 vote with 58 abstentions, aims to treat all Internet traffic equally by making it illegal to block, slow down or give preferential treatment to certain specific applications and services for economic or other reasons. Last February the FCC announced it would not appeal [JURIST report] the court ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit that struck down net neutrality.