Given the importance of an open Internet to our economic future…it is essential that the FCC fulfill its historic role as a cop on the beat to ensure the vitality of our communications networks and to empower and protect consumers of those networks.” – FCC Chairman Julian Genachowski.
Earlier this fall, part of the Tech Cocktail team was able to meet with Chairman Genachowski where he spoke broadly about innovation and freedom, but wouldn't make any strong statements with regard to policy. With November over, we knew Genachowski would finally make a move. Today, in a vote that was split between party lines, the FCC approved a list of net neutrality regulations that is already creating controversy.
Here's what we know:
- A new set of rules has been approved by the Federal Communications Commission that are intended to “preserve open access to the Internet”.
- There is debate on whether or not the FCC has the authority to adopt such rules.
- The rules create two classes of Internet access, one for fixed-line providers, the other for the wireless Internet.
- The proposed rules would prevent fixed-line broadband providers like Comcast and Qwest from blocking access to sites and applications, while at the same time allowing wireless companies broader permissions in putting limits on access to services and applications.
- The new rules will take affect in early 2011.
The exact rules that were voted on have not yet been published, but according to Genachowski, the rules are aimed to both encourage Internet innovation and protect consumers from abuses, and have been characterized as progress toward fulfilling a campaign promise by President Obama to preserve a level playing field for Web developers. But as we know, the prickly thorns are in the details and as those details emerge, we'll better understand whether the FCC is leveling the playing field or creating an entirely new set of barriers to navigate.