Friday, March 7, 2014

FCC Proposes New Set of Net Neutrality Rules

March 10, 2014, vol.43, no.10, pp.1-2

The following is excerpted from this week's Library Hotline:
FCC Proposes New Set of Net Neutrality Rules
In the wake of a January court ruling that struck down the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) standards for ensuring that Internet traffic is delivered without bias— a standard industry watchers refer to as “net neutrality”—the agency has issued a new proposal outlining a set of rules that would ensure Internet users have equal access to the full content of the Internet. Some experts, though, don’t think these new rules will be any more enforceable than the ones that were overturned earlier this year.

FCC Chair Tom Wheeler outlined his proposal in a statement on February 19 [see Fact Sheet]. While the newly minted FCC proposition makes some technical changes to the law, the heart of the agency’s definition of an Open Internet remains largely the same, working to ensure that no providers are blocked or discriminated against, and that Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are transparent in telling consumers how they allocate bandwidth on their networks.

Wheeler also noted that the FCC would not challenge the ruling handed down last month from the DC Circuit Court of Appeals. That ruling allowed the FCC to continue enforcing transparency in ISP practices and working to ensure broadband access under Section 706 of the Telecommunication Act of1996. The FCC’s new plan is to make rules similar to those that were recently struck down but this time under the authority of Section 706.
“In light of the Court’s finding that the Commission has authority to issue new rules under Section 706 and the ongoing availability of Title II, the Commission will not initiate any further judicial action in connection with the Verizon decision,” Wheeler’s statement read. The current statement is merely a suggestion, with a more formal set of rules expected sometime in late spring.

Just how much success the FCC will have enforcing these new rules under Section 706, though, remains to be seen. According to the American Library Association (ALA), there’s a lot riding on Wheeler and his commissioners ensuring that ISPs can’t discriminate among kinds of traffic.
“We’re really pleased to see that Chairman Wheeler and the FCC are moving forward and revisiting these rules, and we certainly hope they’re successful this time,” said Lynne Bradley, director of ALA’s Office of Government Relations. “This is a go-to- the-mat issue. The American public can’t afford for them not to get this right.

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