FCC's Net Neutrality Vote Met With Skepticism

By December 22, 2010
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The new decision aims to rein in ISP businesses practices to favor users and developers, but is being condemned by both pro- and anti-Net Neutrality spokespersons.

A vote by the Federal Communications Commission today resulted in new rules in favor of individual open access to the Internet rather than increased corporation control, also known as Net Neutrality. The 3-2 favorable decision is referred to by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski as "enforceable rules of the road to preserve Internet freedom and openness." As documentation excerpts from the FCC explain, the report takes specific interest in the practices of Internet service providers.

Specifically, ISPs must conduct their business with enough transparency for consumers to make informed decisions and for developers to create products within these networks, including "basic performance characteristics" and network management."

These companies cannot block non-harmful/lawful content, services or devices, and mobile ISPs are not to block Web sites or applications that compete with provider services.

Additionally, access providers must not "unreasonably discriminate" against network traffic, which in practice would slow content from other media services than their own. As Genachowski describes it, no "central authority, public or private, should have the power to pick winners and losers on the Internet; that’s the role of the commercial market and the marketplace of ideas."

These new rules could go far to protect smaller organizations and individual Internet users if enforced, and are a result of years of debate between the FCC, political figures and telecommunications corporations. But groups in favor of Net Neutrality are already voicing their concerns that these steps are not enough to protect democratic communication and free speech.

FreePress.net calls the vote "a major setback," due to loopholes within the rules that render the "toothless." Responses of a similar order came from the New America Foundation's Sascha Meinrath, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Future of Music Coalition. While the spirit of the FCC effort falls in line with President Obama's campaign promise to protect an open Internet, the general consensus of this group believes that industry has in fact been aided, not reined in by the decision.

Despite pro-NN complaints, the decision has still triggered condemnatory responses from Republican FCC Commissioner Robert McDowell and Commissioner Meredith Baker.

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