Yesterday the FCC quietly released the full set of rules to the public, and including the dissenting opinions from the Republican members, the document is 400 pages long.
We’re currently reading through the rules now to see if there are any surprises, but so far no red flags or severe changes from the initial summary. The rules seem focused on preventing ISP’s from throttling services, and blocking any actions towards creating a tiered internet with “fastlanes”.
It was a landmark day yesterday for the FCC and advocates of a free and open internet. Two major rulings were delivered. One defending Tennessee and North Carolina efforts to build tax payer funded broadband, and the second reclassifying the entire Internet as a utility under Title II regulations. If you have questions about the announcements, Enobong Etteh from Booredatwork and I are here to answer them!
Second, approving rules which will reclassify broadband internet as a common carrier utility under Title II regulations. Thankfully, unlike the OIO, these new rules will also apply to mobile networks, not just wired ones. The vote was 3-2 in favor, on party lines with the Democrat majority winning the day.
“While I see no need for net neutrality rules, I am far more troubled by the dangerous course that the Commission is now charting on Title 2 and the consequences it will have for broadband investment, edge providers and consumers,”
-Republican FCC member Michael O’Rielly, who voted against the new rules.
It’s a day many supporters of Net Neutrality thought we’d never see, and while there will still be a number of battles to fight over who regulates the internet, and what those actions should resemble, we can at least call today a victory for pretty much anyone who uses any kind of commerce or data driven service online.
The FCC has a five page write up, detailing the new rules.
Maybe a surprising way to wrap a week full of Net Neutrality news, but the country’s fourth place carrier yesterday sent a letter to the FCC explaining its position on reclassifying the internet as a common utility under Title II.
They’re stance? It probably wont affect their products and services much.
Now to be sure, the letter does support a “light touch” regulation, where the FCC through forbearance might opt out of regulating certain aspects of the wireless industry, and give “mobile carriers the flexibility to manage our networks and to differentiate our services in the market”.
Of course, drawing that regulation line is a sticky subject between Title II supporters and opponents. Still it’s refreshing to see a carrier buck current industry trends to point out that it’s entirely likely reclassification might have only a small impact on the way broadband business is currently handled, and drawing on the history of the wireless industry, would probably be a positive move for the industry in allowing more competition.
When first launched, the mobile market was a licensed duopoly. This system was a failure, resulting in slow deployment, high prices and little innovation. In 1993, Congress revised the Telecommunications Act to allow new carriers, including Sprint, to enter the market. This competition resulted in tremendous investment in the wireless industry, broader deployment, greater innovation, and falling prices. It is absolutely true that this explosion of growth occurred under a light touch regulatory regime. Some net neutrality debaters appear to have forgotten, however, that this light touch regulatory regime emanated from Title II common carrier regulation, including Sections 201, 202 and 208 of the Communications Act.
The fight over net neutrality is going to get uglier. President Obama recently voiced support for classifying the Internet as a common utility and ending 19 states laws preventing broadband competition, and FCC chairman Tom Wheeler might join the President after voicing support for Title II at this year’s CES.
On the other side, Conservatives are pushing another bill in the House which would completely strip the FCC of regulating Internet activity by classifying it as an “Information Service”. You can thank Congressman Bob Latta out of Ohio for that, who received around $80,000 in donations from the telecoms during the 2013-14 election year cycle.
Verizon alone sued the FCC over some fairly basic protections for keeping a level playing field, claiming it was their First Amendment right to degrade the quality of connection for competing services on their network. Other carriers have tried to circumvent Net Neutrality with “value add” benefits for consumers. People were up in arms about AT&T’s proposed Sponsored Data initiative, which would let third party companies pay to reduce the amount of data AT&T subscribers would be billed for, and T-Mobile found some success in cutting streaming music services off of customer’s bills.
Verizon’s actions a year ago in squashing the OIO means the worst possible option for carriers and ISP’s is the one gaining the most traction. It seems more likely now that in the wake of vocal opposition to the FCC’s “Fastlane” proposal, we might see an about face and a new proposal presented in favor of classifying the internet as a common utility.