FCC passes 'net neutrality' Internet regulations
The Federal Communications Commission today passed controversial new rules that prevent Internet providers from playing favorites or blocking access to Web sites that offer rival services.
Supporters of "net neutrality," the principle that all Internet traffic should be treated exactly the same by service providers, said the proposed regulations won't go far enough. "We're very worred that these rules won't be real net neutrality," said Craig Aaron before today's FCC vote. Aaron is managing director of Free Press, a Washington, D.C. group that lobbies for tougher oversight of Internet service providers.
But Ryan Radia, associate director of technology studies for the Competitive Enterprise Institute, a free market-oriented think tank in Washington, said the Internet's doing fine without FCC interference, and opposed any new rules at all. Also speaking before today's vote, Radia said that a federal net neutrality rule "forecloses business models that could be important to the growth of the Internet."
Net neutrality backers have argued for years that giant Internet service providers like Comcast Corp. and AT&T Inc., which provide high-speed broadband access to millions of Americans, have too much power over the information traveling over their networks. They warn that a company like Comcast, which is about to acquire the television and movie company NBC Universal, could decide to block Internet videos from, say, the ABC network, or deliver them with poor resolution and bad sound. Then it could potentially offer ABC a deal to deliver its video at high quality, in exchange for hefty fees.
The 3-2 vote marks a major victory for FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, who has spent more than a year trying to craft a compromise.
The FCC's three Democrats voted to pass the rules, while the two Republicans opposed them, arguing that they amount to unnecessary regulation. The new rules are likely to face intense scrutiny on Capitol Hill once Republicans take over the House.
Genachowski has said previously that the rules would require broadband companies to provide details about how their networks function, so that companies could not secretly restrict Internet services. The plan would forbid Internet service providers from blocking any kind of lawful online traffic, and it would ban the providers from engaging in "unreasonable discrimination" that would result in some Internet services being given better treatment than others.
Information from Globe wire services was used in this report.