Net neutrality apparently isn’t dead after all: Federal regulators are moving ahead with a plan to prohibit phone and cable companies from blocking or discriminating against internet traffic flowing over their broadband networks, despite Republican opposition to the plan in Congress.
Julius Genachowski, chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), will outline his proposal for so-called “net neutrality” rules in a speech on Dec. 1.
Despite Republican opposition, Genachowski plans to bring his proposal to a vote by the full commission before the end of the year; many observers thought this was unlikely to happen after Republicans seized control of the House in last month’s elections.
Net-neutrality rules were one of the Obama administration’s top campaign pledges to the technology industry and have been among Genachowski’s priorities since he took over the FCC more than a year ago.
Many big internet companies, such as search leader Google Inc. and calling service Skype, as well as public-interest groups and some education organizations, insist regulations are needed to ensure broadband companies don’t use their control over internet connections to dictate where consumers can go and what they can do online.
But Genachowski has run into substantial opposition from big phone and cable companies, including AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., and Comcast Corp., which argue that they should be allowed to manage their networks as they see fit.
Genachowski has spent the past several months trying to craft a compromise.
His new proposal would “culminate recent efforts to find common ground” and create “rules of the road to preserve the freedom and openness of the internet,” according to an advance copy of his remarks.
The plan—which builds on a set of FCC principles first established under the previous administration in 2005—would require that broadband providers let subscribers access all legal online content, applications, and services over their wireline networks.
But it would give broadband providers flexibility to manage their systems to deal with problems such as network congestion and unwanted traffic like spam, as long as they publicly disclose their network management practices.
The proposal also would prohibit wireless carriers from blocking access to any web sites or competing applications such as internet calling services on mobile devices, and it would require them to disclose their network management practices.
But it would give wireless carriers more leeway to manage data traffic, because wireless systems have more bandwidth constraints than wired networks.