While Federal Communications Commission Chairman Julius Genachoswski may have intended to clarify the FCC's net neutrality position with the new plan, it ignored or sidestepped some key questions.
The Federal Communications
Commission's new net neutrality framework clarified some points from its 2009
plan, but the latest proposal still is receiving scant support in Congress
and from Internet service providers.
FCC chairman Julius
Genachowski offered a sneak peek at the draft
net neutrality proposal
on Dec. 1. More details will be available when the
FCC discusses the proposal at its next open meeting on Dec. 21.
A few things remain the same
from the initial 2009
net neutrality proposal
: the FCC is still committed to protecting an "open
Internet" and Internet service providers would still be banned from
discriminating against specific applications or Websites. The wireless industry
is still subject to net neutrality rules.
In his public statement,
Genachowski did not satisfactorily address whether or not the FCC can even make
these rules. While he said the new framework is "grounded in a variety of
provisions of the communications laws," he also said there is no need to "reclassify
broadband as a Title II telecommunications service." He said there was "sound
legal basis" for the framework.
However, the Washington D.C.
appeals court ruled in the spring that the FCC did not currently have legal
authority to regulate ISP
network management. The case centered on whether
the FCC could force Comcast to not block peer-to-peer file-sharing site
BitTorrent on its network.
Under current FCC rules, ISPs
are classified as Title I "information services" and are, therefore, not
subject to FCC regulations involving issues such as rate setting and universal
service obligations. The FCC has authority over Title II telecommunications
services, which include public utilities, such as telephone companies.
With the appellate decision,
the FCC must either wait for Congress to enact net neutrality legislation or reclassify
the ISPs. Genachowski initially supported the latter option-and the
reclassification is entirely within the FCC's authority-but there was a lot of
industry opposition and hints of legal challenges, similar to what happened in the
As for Congressional
legislation, the net neutrality bill failed to come to vote before the mid-term
elections in November, and it is unlikely to pass in a Republican-controlled
House of Representatives. As CNN/Money
noted, all 95 House and Senate candidates who'd supported the proposal lost on
"I want to emphasize
that moving this item to a vote at the Commission is not designed or intended
to preclude action by Congress," said Genachowski.