What's in the FCC's new net neutrality rules?

The new rules would bar prohibit wired broadband providers from blocking legal Web content and services

The U.S. Federal Communications Commission voted Dec. 21 to create new network neutrality rules for broadband providers.

The 194-page order contains several provisions:

Transparency: The order will require broadband providers to "publicly disclose accurate information" about their network management practices, the performance of their services and their commercial terms. The goal is to provide information "sufficient for consumers to make informed choices regarding use of such services," the FCC said in a press release.

No blocking: The rules will prohibit wire-based broadband providers from blocking legal Web content, applications and services. The order will also require broadband providers to allow harmless devices to be connected to their networks. The no-blocking rule is subject to reasonable network management.

Exemption on no-blocking rules for mobile broadband carriers: The order does not prohibit mobile broadband providers from blocking some Web content and services, but it does prohibit them from blocking services that compete with the carriers' voice or video telephony services. The FCC will monitor the mobile broadband industry for signs of anti consumer behavior, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski said.

No unreasonable discrimination: The rules bar wired -- but not mobile -- broadband providers from unreasonable discrimination against legal network traffic, with reasonable network management again the exception.

Exemption for specialized services: Specialized, or managed services, are exempt from the rules, for now, the FCC said. The FCC will monitor the broadband industry for signs that providers are hurting the public Internet or acting in an anti competitive manner by pouring more resources into specialized services, the FCC said.

Paid prioritization of Web traffic: Any commercial agreements between broadband providers and other companies that would allow providers to prioritize some types of Web traffic would likely violate the prohibition on unreasonable discrimination, the rules say. Those types of commercial agreements would "raise significant cause for concern," the FCC said in its press release. "This departure from long-standing norms could cause great harm to innovation and investment in and on the Internet."

Complaints: Broadband customers and providers of Web applications and services will be able to file informal complaints through the FCC's website, without paying the normal fee for formal complaints. Customers and others can also file formal complaints after notifying the broadband provider. The FCC will allow requests for expedited action on complaints.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's e-mail address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Copyright © 2010 IDG Communications, Inc.

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