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FCC's Net neutrality vote hit from both sides

By Grant Gross
December 21, 2010 03:46 PM ET

IDG News Service - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission's vote Tuesday to approve new network neutrality rules received mixed reviews, with broadband provider Verizon Communications appearing to question the agency's legal authority.

A Verizon spokesman declined to comment on news reports that the company was mulling a lawsuit against the FCC, but Tom Tauke, the carrier's executive vice president of public affairs and policy, suggesting the fight over net neutrality rules wasn't over. Verizon will continue to "work constructively" with the FCC and Congress on the issue, he said in a statement.

"Based on today's announcement, the FCC appears to assert broad authority for sweeping new regulation of broadband wireline and wireless networks and the Internet itself." Tauke said. "This assertion of authority without solid statutory underpinnings will yield continued uncertainty for industry, innovators, and investors. In the long run, that is harmful to consumers and the nation."

Reaction to the FCC's decision was met with criticism coming from groups on both sides of the seven-plus-year net neutrality debate in Washington, D.C. Several consumer and digital rights groups pushing for strong net neutrality rules called the vote a missed opportunity.

The rules, pushed by FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski, prohibit broadband providers from blocking legal Web content, and they prohibit wired providers from unreasonable discrimination against Web traffic. They exempt specialized, or managed services, offered by broadband providers and exempt mobile broadband providers from the prohibition on unreasonable discrimination.

Verizon is committed to an "open and vibrant" Internet, but the FCC's decision reverses a long-standing U.S. policy against Internet regulation, Tauke added.

Several Republicans in Congress, including Representative Cliff Stearns of Florida and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison of Texas, said Tuesday they will attempt to overturn the FCC's decision when lawmakers return to Washington early next year.

"Since its inception, the Internet has thrived and grown without any federal regulation," Stearns said in a statement. "Without any hint of market failure, the reason for any regulation is nonexistent. Furthermore, the courts have determined that the Federal Communications Commission has no jurisdiction over the Internet."

Others suggested the FCC's action was weak. The rules were heavily influenced by broadband providers, said Craig Aaron, managing director of Free Press, a media reform group that's called for stronger rules.

"We are deeply disappointed that the chairman chose to ignore the overwhelming public support for real net neutrality, instead moving forward with industry-written rules that will for the first time in Internet history allow discrimination online," Aaron said in a statement. "This proceeding was a squandered opportunity to enact clear, meaningful rules to safeguard the Internet's level playing field and protect consumers."

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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