FCC 'grateful' for first round of net neutrality comments

Technology -

The Federal Communications Commission is facing resistance over net neutrality rules that would allow companies to pay broadband providers for faster access to consumers.

Circa News
Copyright 2014 Reuters
Copyright 2014 Reuters

"Our work is just beginning as we review the more than one million comments we have received… There is no question the Internet must remain open as a platform for innovation, economic growth and free expression. Today's deadline is a checkpoint, not the finish line for public comment." Tom Wheeler, FCC Chairman

The first public comment period over the FCC's proposed net neutrality rules ended at 12am ET July 19. The deadline had to be extended by three days after the FCC's website experienced "heavy load" on July 15. The FCC received more than 1 million comments.

The FCC voted May 15 to move forward with the agency's proposed net neutrality rules. The rules, which allow broadband providers to reach deals with companies for preferred access to their customers, were published shortly after the final vote. The vote passed three to two.

Open Internet advocates fear the proposed net neutrality rules would allow broadband providers to make deals with large companies -- such as streaming video providers, mobile messaging providers, and online video game producers, among others -- for faster access to subscribers at the expense of newer, smaller companies.

"The average broadband speeds jumped 25 percent in 2013 alone, highlighting there are no 'slow lanes' in today's Internet… Title II backers fail to explain where the next hundreds of billions of dollars of risk capital will come from to improve and expand today's networks." Letter from ISPs

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has not altogether ruled out using Title II to classify broadband providers as telecommunication services and not information services. Regulating broadband providers using Title II (which is how the FCC regulates telephone companies) would allow for stricter regulation.

"Instead of permitting individualized bargaining and discrimination, the Commission's rules should protect users and Internet companies on both fixed and mobile platforms against blocking, discrimination, and paid prioritization, and should make the market for Internet services more transparent." Open letter from tech companies

Several technology companies, including Amazon, Dropbox, eBay, Facebook, Google, Microsoft, Netflix, Twitter, and Yahoo, sent an open letter to the FCC on May 6 saying that any new net neutrality rules that allow for fast and slow lanes online "represent a grave threat to the Internet."

FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler warned ISPs July 23 that they are required to give subscribers "accurate and truthful" information for subjects like pricing and actual download speeds. Wheeler said he would hold ISPs "accountable" for not providing such information, but did not say what that might entail.

The FCC first implemented net neutrality rules in late 2010, but it was quickly sued by Verizon to prevent their imposition. The D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Jan. 14 that the agency did not have the regulatory authority to implement net neutrality rules as they were then written.

The FCC made public 1.1 million comments on Aug. 5 it received on the proposed rules. The comments were released in a format that is easy-to-search and is downloadable.

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