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FCC to Draft New Net Neutrality Rules by Summer

19 Feb, 2014 By: Erik Gruenwedel

Commission will not fight recent appeals court decision striking down net neutrality

The Federal Communications Commission plans to draft new guidelines regarding net neutrality that can stand legal scrutiny, chairman Tom Wheeler said in a Feb. 19 statement.

Wheeler said the FCC would not challenge the appeals court decision last month that struck down provisions of net neutrality; and instead use its legal authority to issue enforceable “rules of the road” to preserve Internet freedom and openness.

While ruling in favor of plaintiff Verizon Communications, which had sought greater control as an ISP, the appeals court upheld Section 706 of the Telecommunications Act of 1996 that gives the FCC authority to encourage broadband deployment by, among other things, removing barriers to infrastructure deployment, encouraging innovation and promoting competition.

“Preserving the Internet as an open platform for innovation and expression while providing certainty and predictability in the marketplace is an important responsibility of this agency,” Wheeler said.

Specifically, Wheeler said the new neutrality provisions — which are to be completed by the summer — would include a transparency rule, which requires that network operators disclose how they manage Internet traffic.

More importantly, the FCC said it would include provisions against blocking so-called “edge providers” that conduct commerce and services over the Internet. Netflix, Amazon Prime Instant Video and Hulu Plus are edge providers.

“We will carefully consider how, consistent with the court opinion, we can ensure that edge providers are not unfairly blocked, explicitly or implicitly, from reaching consumers, as well as ensuring that consumers can continue to access any lawful content and services they choose,” Wheeler said.

In addition, the chairman said the FCC would seek to enforce existing non-discrimination rules, maintain the right to to reclassify Internet access as a telecommunications service, seek public commentary on the provisions, and look for opportunities to enhance Internet access competition.

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