Friday, January 07, 2011

USA - FCC voted 3.2 in favour of net neutrality rules, though final rules will not be available for some days

[cnn] FCC Commissioners voted 3-2 to approve controversial "net neutrality" rules -- the exact content of which it has been rolling out slowly throughout the week.

The agency started by releasing two-and-a half pages of "snippets" from the final rules on Wednesday -- which basically just repeated what FCC officials had already revealed earlier about the rules.

Judging by the initial proposed draft, the completed final rules are likely to run at least 100 pages. And the devil is always in the details, especially for government regulations.

While we're waiting out the "several days" that FCC officials said it will take to "address any dissenting views from the commissioners in the order" before the final Open Internet Order is published for all to see, the FCC commissioners have released individual statements about the proceedings.

Reportedly, the new net neutrality rules will mostly not apply to mobile devices (such as cell phones or tablets) that connect to the internet via wireless carriers. Since most internet access is expected to shift to mobile devices over the net couple of years, this is a huge concern for all internet users.

So what did the FCC commissioners have to say about mobile and net neutrality? Here are a few highlights from their statements.

In his statement affirming the FCC decision, FCC Chair Julius Genachowski said: "The principle of Internet Openness applies to mobile broadband. There is one Internet, and it must remain an open platform, however consumers and innovators access it."

That's a little confusing, since (so far as the FCC has indicated) wireless carriers are exempted from some significant net neutrality requirements in the final order.

For instance, while "wired" (or "fixed) providers are prohibited from charging consumers or online content/service providers simply for allowing access or delivering traffic, wireless carriers appear to face no such constraint. That leaves the door open for wireless carriers to start doing things like charging extra for mobile access to specific services or sites (such as Facebook) -- which, according to, they're already mulling.

"Our order makes clear that we are not endorsing or approving practices that the order doesn't prohibit," Genachowski said, "particularly conduct that is barred for fixed broadband."

FCC Commissioner Michael J. Copps went along with the majority to approve the order -- but he voiced some serious reservations, especially about mobile.

FCC Commissioners' views on mobile, net neutrality, transparency

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