The FCC faces an uphill battle in its efforts to impose Net Neutrality regulations upon broadband providers.
The FCC said Feb. 19 that it would not appeal a recent court ruling that determined it did not have the regulatory power to impose Net Neutrality upon broadband providers. Instead, the FCC said it would "propose new rules" using its current regulatory power to "protect and promote an Open Internet."
The FCC plans to have the new rules drawn up by late spring or early summer 2014.
The FCC's Feb. 19 announcement means that it will not currently seek to reclassify broadband from an information service to a telecommunications service as some Net Neutrality advocates had proposed. Reclassifying broadband would have give the FCC broad and immediate regulatory power over broadband providers.
Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) introduced a bill into the House on Feb. 21 that would explicitly strip the FCC of the regulatory power to impose any kind of Net Neutrality regulations upon broadband providers. Rep. Blackburn said the President Obama "will stop at nothing to restrict our Internet freedom."
Rep. Blackburn's bill comes about three weeks after House Republicans said they would not support any FCC plan to reclassify broadband providers as telecommunications services. House Democrats had earlier pledged to introduce legislation in support of Net Neutrality until the FCC took "new, final action."
The FCC does not need Congressional approval to reclassify broadband providers as "telecommunication services," but Congress controls the FCC's budget, which could generate significant political pushback to any attempts at reclassification. FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler said Feb. 19 he would leave reclassification "on the table" for the future.
"Given that the Commission has chosen to classify broadband providers in a manner that exempts them from treatment as common carriers, the Communications Act expressly prohibits the Commission from nonetheless regulating them as such." D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals Judge David S. Tatel
Advocates of a free and open Internet are concerned that the Jan. 14 ruling could harm consumers: companies would be free to pay for preferred network access and consumers may be forced to pay for access to select online content.
The FCC first adopted its Net Neutrality rules in late 2010, requiring broadband providers treat all data sent through their networks equally. Broadband providers have long argued that they should be allowed to charge more for certain types of data, particularly high-bandwidth data like video streaming.
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