As expected, the FCC today posted their proposed draft rules for net neutrality regulations that would apply to wired and wireless broadband data providers. Despite opposition from wireless carriers worried that the FCC would make it harder to manage network traffic and congestion on their wireless networks, the FCC is moving forward with far-reaching net neutrality ruls. In an open meeting today, the FCC outlined its vision to ensure a “free and open internet” for all Americans. The proposed regulations would mostly cement into law four net neutrality guiding principles that the FCC introduced in 2005, but also details two new regulations that would require operator disclosure and non-discrimination.
The first four net neutrality draft rules were first introduced as “Internet freedoms” principles back in 2005. These rules require that any broadband network provider in the US:
- must ensure that Internet users are free to access and consume any and all lawful content.
- may never prevent customers from running lawful applications or from using any lawful service.
- must allow the user to connect to the carrier’s wireless network and access the Internet using any lawful device they choose.
- must ensure that all customer have access to competition from other network providers, application providers, service providers, and content providers.
The last two rules require that broadband providers don’t discriminate against certain online content or applications and maintain transparency about their network management practices. The rules state that US broadband providers:
- allow non-discriminatory access to any and all lawful content, applications, and service.
- provide transparency in their network management practices to ensure that users have access to a “free and open” Internet as the FCC has so far outlined.
But, these are still draft rules. And, as such, the FCC is looking for public guidance on how to best shape these net neutrality policies to “balance potentially competing interests while helping to ensure an open, safe, and secure Internet” that also allows service providers to “engage in reasonable network management, including but not limited to reasonable practices to reduce or mitigate the effects of network congestion.” Basically, the FCC wants to hear your comments on how to preserve an open Internet while still allowing service providers to protect their network from congestion or failure.
The rules are also subject to “reasonable network management” exceptions that would allow service providers to block unlawful content (child pornography, copyrighted content, etc.), manage network congestion, mitigate malware (viruses), or provide emergency communications services. The FCC is also seeking guidance on how to best handle so-called “managed” services like Internet-based voice call (VoIP) services, enterprise business services, or web-based applications like those used in telemedicine or smart grid technologies.
More importantly, the FCC explicitly states that these rules will apply to all broadband Internet service providers, including wireless carriers. (emphasis ours)
The Notice affirms that the six principles it proposes to codify would apply to all platforms for broadband Internet access, including mobile wireless broadband, while recognizing that different access platforms involve significantly different technologies, market structures, patterns of consumer usage, and regulatory history. To that end, the Notice seeks comment on how, in what time frames or phases, and to what extent the principles should apply to non-wireline forms of broadband Internet access, including mobile wireless.
Wireless carriers are still scared that the FCC will regulate them into submission. But, with enough tweaking, it’s starting to look like the FCC might just be able to ensure free access to all internet users (wired and wireless) while still allowing wireless carriers to manage their networks as they see fit… as long as it doesn’t slow down any BitTorrent downloads.
We applaud the new FCC for taking an open stance on how they shape new policies – posting draft rules for public review and asking for public comment on proposed rules.
[Via: FCC] (PDF link)