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Inside the FCC's net neutrality notice

The FCC asks for public comment on reclassifying broadband, allowing 'commercially reasonable' traffic management and other issues

By Grant Gross
May 16, 2014 01:08 PM ET

IDG News Service - The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted Thursday to release a controversial proposal to restore net neutrality rules and seek public comment on a number of ways to proceed after a U.S. appeals court threw out the agency's old rules in January.

The 99-page notice of proposed rulemaking, or NRPM, seeks public comment on Chairman Tom Wheeler's proposal for rules that would allow so-called "commercially reasonable" network management practices, but it also asks whether the agency should reclassify broadband as a common carrier, utility-type service regulated under Title II of the Telecommunications Act.

People with comments on the net neutrality notice can use the FCC Web form.

Some highlights of the notice:

Selective blocking by broadband providers is a "real threat"

Page 3: "It is important to always remember that the Internet is a collection of networks, not a single network. And that means that each broadband provider can either add to the benefits that the Internet delivers to Americans -- by maintaining Internet openness and by extending the reach of broadband networks -- or it can threaten those benefits -- by restricting its customers from the Internet and preventing edge providers from reaching consumers over robust, fast and continuously improving networks. This is a real threat, not merely a hypothetical concern."

The overturned 2010 rule allowed reasonable network management

Page 23: "The 2010 no-blocking rule was made expressly subject to 'reasonable network management.' ... We tentatively conclude that we should continue the same approach. We seek comment on this conclusion as applied to an enhanced transparency rule, our re-adoption of the no-blocking rule, and the proposal to adopt a 'commercially reasonable' standard. How can we ensure that the ability of providers to engage in reasonable network management is not used to circumvent the open Internet protections implemented by our proposed rules?"

Why allow 'commercially reasonable' network management?

Pages 40-41: "The D.C. Circuit [Court] vacated the antidiscrimination rule because it found that the rule improperly relegated fixed broadband providers to common carrier status. This violated the statutory ban on common carrier treatment of information service providers because the Commission had classified broadband providers 'not as providers of 'telecommunications services' but instead as providers of 'information services.

What is 'commercially reasonable' traffic management?

Page 42: "Sound public policy requires that Internet openness be the touchstone of a new legal standard. Accordingly, we tentatively conclude that the Commission should adopt a rule requiring broadband providers to use 'commercially reasonable' practices in the provision of broadband Internet access service ...

"It would prohibit as commercially unreasonable those broadband providers' practices that, based on the totality of the circumstances, threaten to harm Internet openness and all that it protects. At the same time, it could permit broadband providers to serve customers and carry traffic on an individually negotiated basis,'without having to hold themselves out to serve all comers indiscriminately on the same or standardized terms' so long as such conduct is commercially reasonable."

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