FCC to Take on Net Neutrality in December
U.S. telecommunications regulators plan to tackle contentious Internet traffic rules intended to prohibit broadband providers from blocking or slowing some traffic.
The Federal Communications Commission announced on Wednesday a tentative agenda for its next meeting on December 21,that included an order to adopt regulations "to preserve the open Internet as a platform for innovation, investment, competition and free expression."
FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski will give brief remarks at 10:30 a.m. EST on his plans for open Internet principles.
The agency said the rules would protect the transmission of lawful Internet traffic for consumers, while giving broadband providers the flexibility to manage their networks.
So-called net neutrality rules would determine whether high-speed Internet providers such as Comcast Corp and Verizon Communications Inc should be allowed to block or slow content information, or charge for a "fast lane" to reach users more quickly.
At stake is how quickly consumers, particularly those using handheld devices such as Research in Motion Ltd'sBlackBerry and Apple Inc's iPhone, can receive and download videos and other content.
Broadband providers say they should be able to manage networks, but some public interest groups and content providers argue that there should be a level playing field for all Internet users.
Genachowski previously proposed reclassifying broadband to regulate it similar to telephone services. The move was intended to re-establish oversight after a U.S. appeals court ruled that the FCC lacked the authority to stop Comcast from blocking bandwidth-hogging applications.
Broadband reclassification will not be included in rules the FCC will vote on at its December meeting.
"The thrust of the proposal has shifted from purely preserving openness to now simultaneously acknowledging the need for broadband rationing," Craig Moffett, an analyst with Bernstein Research, said in an email.
Any action the FCC takes on net neutrality could be met with harsh opposition.
Republicans, critical of what they believe are overly burdensome regulations, have opposed Web traffic rules. The agency could also face legal challenges from companies unhappy with the new regulations.
(Additional reporting by Emily Stephenson, editing by Maureen Bavdek)