Exclusion for Wireless Carriers

By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2010-12-21 Print this article Print


The exclusion for wireless providers, first announced in a draft proposal earlier this month, remained in the final version of the order. The exclusion will create "barriers to new start-up content providers and chill content innovation over wireless Internet," said J. Scott Holladay, an economics fellow at the Institute of Policy Integrity at New York University School of Law.

Commissioner Mignon Clyburn also voted yes, despite being unhappy about the different set of rules for wireless providers. All the rules should have been extended to the wireless industry, given that there are those who rely solely on mobile devices for access to the Internet, she said.

The orders against blocking Web sites apply to both wireless and wired providers, but wireless providers have the discretion to be able to block certain applications that take up too much bandwidth. However, the rules specifically forbid mobile companies from blocking competing mobile voice or video-conferencing applications.

The other dissenting Republican commissioner, Meredith Attwell Baker, said there was no need for these rules. She said there was already a competitive broadband marketplace that made government regulation of any kind unnecessary. McDowell also touted the healthy competition between broadband providers.

An informal poll online indicated that most users have access to only one broadband provider in their area. Only a few could choose between two (or more) providers. One user asked on a chat hosted by the Media Access Project: "Where is this competitive broadband marketplace? Can I move there?"

McDowell and Baker both pointed out in their statements that the FCC does not have any legal powers to regulate the Internet. "The FCC is not Congress; we cannot make laws," McDowell said.

Copps also wanted to assert Title II-level authority over the Internet, giving the FCC even more authority to regulate the big gatekeepers such as Comcast, Time Warner and Verizon. He noted that Title II classification remained an open item under the final orders.

The FCC based the rules on "shaky ground," invoking "legal authority that was called into serious doubt" by the courts in the Comcast case this spring, making the "long-term prospects" for the new rules quite poor, said Holladay.

The orders closely follow the proposal set out by Verizon and Google earlier this year, said Manzo. Net neutrality supporters were incensed that the rules considered the needs of the industry ahead of the consumers. Instead of "real Net Neutrality," the adopted orders were "industry-written rules," according to a statement from the Media Access Project.


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